Kauai on Capitol Hill

About 25 of Kauai’s industry leaders will be showcased at the second annual Hawaii on the Hill event in Washington, D.C., this week.

The event, spearheaded by the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), is one of many hosted by different states to promote their key industries to policy makers.

Kauai businesses such as Kauai Kookie, Kauai Coffee Company and Koloa Rum Company will join 60 other Hawaii businesses representing the state Tuesday and Wednesday.

“The goal is to showcase Hawaii as a state at the nation’s capitol, in particular, policy and decision makers in D.C. on various industry sectors in Hawaii,” said Randall Francisco, specialist and film commissioner at the Office of Economic Development County of Kauai and former Kauai Chamber of Commerce president. “We focused last year and this year on Kauai manufacturing, especially because there are iconic Kauai brands … that we wanted to highlight.”

Jay Robertson, Kauai Chamber of Commerce board chair, said the event “is an excellent opportunity to develop support systems for growing business on Kauai.”

“It is a showcase for our manufacturing and services we do provide,” he said. “But it really is more important that we are able to work with our congressional delegation and show them and demonstrate that any federal assistance and programs that come our way really turn tangible benefits for everybody on the island.”

Robertson said that historically, Kauai has “enjoyed federal funding and support.”

“When the federal government supports our economy, supports our growing small businesses, then we reap the true benefits because it creates jobs, create products and stimulates everything that we do in terms of growing a stronger, healthier business climate,” he said.

Wayne Katayama, Kauai Coffee Company president and general manager, said the visit to Washington will demonstrate to lawmakers his company’s commitment to using domestically made products.

“Our message to the legislators in Washington, D.C., is that although our industry is relatively small, we are still the largest coffee-growing region domestically,” he said. “For Kauai Coffee, we use many of the products from the U.S. ­— our packaging, our bags, boxes, even our clips that we use are sourced from the U.S.”

Katayama said Kauai Coffee grows about 3 million pounds of coffee a year, employs 3,000 acres of agriculture, has 100 employees year around and employs up to 200 people during its harvest period.

Bob Gunter, Koloa Rum Company president and chief executive officer, said the event is an opportunity to connect with his company’s distributors on the East Coast and demonstrate to Washington Hawaii’s diverse business sectors.

“We have distribution in Washington, D.C., and the suburbs in Maryland, so we take advantage of the opportunity to also spend a few days visiting with and working with our distributors there,” he said. “(The event) will let everyone know how diversified our economy here is in Hawaii.”

Koloa Rum Company, which began distilling and bottling rum at its Kalaheo distillery in September 2009, uses Hawaiian cane sugar to produce its products.

In D.C., Koloa Rum will showcase its Koloa Rum Mai Tai ready-to-drink cocktail.

“It’s important for us in terms of doing business locally in Hawaii and we feel very fortunate that our products continue to do well in Hawaii,” he said.

Second-year attendee Ann Hashisaka, Kauai Kookie CEO, said she and her mother Mabel Hashisaka, Kauai Kookie founder will showcase products primarily sold on the island.

“We will have items such as our Rooster Cookies, we’ll have our butter line — some Kauai Coffee in our butter line — bringing our new Hula Cookie that we’re launching, as well as some of our classic items such as our cinnamon toast,” she said. “It is good that Kauai is a place where we welcome our visitors as well as providing for our local folks some made-on-Kauai products.”

Last year’s inaugural event showcased over 30 Hawaii business and drew over 1,000 attendees, according to the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce.

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