The future is now

LIHUE — Alan Tang no longer has to pitch the concept of a creative technology center on Kauai.

“When you have the land, now it’s becoming real,” he said. “And now that we have the land, we’re going to go gangbusters in the fundraising.”

Tang is president of Olomana Loomis ISC, a business consulting firm in Honolulu. He pretty much jumped for joy on Wednesday when the Kauai County Council unanimously approved a license agreement with the Kauai Economic Development Board for a portion of county property next to the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.

The deal — $1 a year for 99 years — will “assist KEDB in leveraging future funding and grant assistance for the development of the Kauai Creative Technology Center, which will be operated as a community gathering place for arts and creative technology.”

“It’s done,” Tang said.

The center will provide 30,000-square-feet of world-class multipurpose creative technology facilities for film industry job training and workforce development programs.

It will offer facilities for filming, editing, performances, lectures and meetings.

The $20.5 million project ($2 million preconstruction, $15 million for construction, and $3.5 million for two years of operation) will be the only professional film studio and post-production facility on Kauai, and will bring high-speed broadband Internet connection to Kauai. It will offer 43,000 hours of professional and community services and programs per year and operate on an annual budget of $2 million.

“This center allows us to train and equip anybody to fully utilize technical and creative aspects,” Tang said.

It could be a game changer for the island, offering robotics, computer labs, recording studios and editing bays.

“Everybody I’ve talked to has lent their support to this because they can see the possibilities,” he said. “I think this is pretty exciting for Kauai.”

Councilmembers were pleased to support the center that was first proposed in the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy report published in March 2010 by the County of Kauai Office of Economic Development and the KEDB.

“I think this is time for celebration,” said Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa.

He said Kauai has missed opportunities to attract new businesses because it doesn’t have a creative tech center.

“I really feel like this is an opportunity the future of Kauai can build upon, create some new hope and new jobs, so I’m very excited today to support this,” Kagawa said.

“One could say that the future of Kauai is broadened today by this type of decision because we’re opening up more opportunities for our community and our keiki,” he said.

Councilman Mason Chock said he loved the creative aspect of what the council was try to do, “and the potential for it to make a huge impact on Kauai.”

Likewise for Councilman Gary Hooser.

“I’m happy to see the county continues to work outside the box that many people put the county in,” he said. “Our responsibilities are not just about police, fire and roads. We’re bold enough to look at how we can help our community and I think we should continue to do that.”

Tang was hired by the KEDB a few years ago to examine the feasibility of establishing a media center on Kauai. His report was completed in June 2012. He found there was a hunger on the island for creative arts, but was there a way to put an economic engine to it?

The answer, Tang said, was yes. All that was missing was a technology center. For that, they need affordable land. So over the last three years, 17 sites were considered. But most were too expensive or wouldn’t be available for several years. Eventually, the county was asked if it would consider a license agreement for land next to the convention hall.

The unanimous vote on Wednesday was a critical step. Next is fundraising.

“We need the money,” Tang said.

The plan calls for getting 40 percent of the funds from foundations and corporations; 33 percent from government; 25 percent from major donors and 2 percent from supporters.

If all goes as hoped, the center could be completed in 2018.

“We’ve had overwhelming support,” Tang said. “The case is very strong. This is a good project, it serves a lot of people.”

He noted that while the center will employ about 10 people once it’s open, the real key will be those who come through it and develop new skills and the economic impact that will have on Kauai.

It’s estimated 300 people will train at the center in the first year, and 43 new jobs will be created per year in the creative sector and other industry. Careers include directors, production managers, graphic designers, sound and lighting engineers, cameramen and film editors.

Tang pointed out that the film industry has shot and will continue to shoot movies on Kauai. Film crew members hired from Kauai totaled 129 in 2014.

That’s estimated to increase to 150 by 2017 and 276 by 2020. Expenditures by large-scale film productions on Kauai were $2.5 million in 2014 and projected to be $2.9 million in 2017 and $4.1 million by 2020.

Tang praised the county for investing “in something this visionary.”

“I think it takes a lot of vision for the county to say, ‘Let’s do something outside of the box,’” he said.

Councilman Mel Rapozo said the center is a “perfect opportunity” for Kauai’s youth.

“Our kids today, they come up with a different mindset, they want to do these things,” he said.

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