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Tech at core of creative center

LIHUE — Local artist and musician Kepa Kruse wishes there was a facility to nourish his creativity while growing up on the island. 

“It’s something that I wish I had in high school,” he said. “I wanted to learn, but I had nowhere to turn to. I wish I had these resources and opportunities.”

That wish will become a reality by the end of 2018.

The Kauai Creative Technology Center (KCTC), a project of the Kauai Economic Development Board (KEDB), will provide a multipurpose creative technology facility for workforce training, a hub for film and music industry professionals, as well as an audio and video resource center for members of the community.

“The core of this center is really technology,” said Alan Tang, president of Olomana Loomis ISC, a business consulting firm in Honolulu. “Anything to do with technology, we want to be able to provide the capability on Kauai.”

The County Council approved a license agreement for the facility to be built next to the War Memorial Convention Hall in April, and last month the Legislature appropriated $500,000 toward the center, Tang said.

“Now that we are actually in implementation, we’ve been very busy when it comes to fundraising,” Tang said. “We were appropriated a grant-in aid award of $500,000. It’s just the start to go towards the $20 million that we need to raise.”

According to the KEDB, the center will serve as a primary economic and workforce development initiative for the county.

“The center will not only create and sustain creative technology based jobs, but it will provide training and education programs and make this sector an economic driver that benefits our community and our residents,” said Susan Tai Kaneko, Kauai Economic Development Board president and CEO.

Last year, 30 percent of the crew members for film productions on the island were Kauai residents, Kaneko said.

“The goal is to eventually double that percentage,” she said. “Regarding the construction of the KCTC and the staff for the center, KEDB anticipates that there will be more than 40 jobs created.”

The center is expected to break ground around fall 2017, Kaneko said.

“Classes, training, workshops and programs in film-making, animation, web development, robotics and other areas of the creative industries will be available to the community,” she said. “Many programs will be focused on training for film crew members.”

The center will be maintained by a $2 million annual budget that will be generated through the use of facility and its resources, Tang said.

“We’re going to make it affordable for the community, but honestly when the film studios want to come and use it and using professional-grade equipment, we’re going to charge Hollywood rates,” he said. “That’s going to be the majority of the money coming in. We’re going to rent not just the facility, but the equipment as well.”

Revenue also will be generated through training programs as well as through charitable means, Tang added.

Educational stakeholders that will partner with the center include Kauai Community College, Tang said.

“There’s also some really good talent in the schools on Kauai,” Tang said. “The community college is doing much better than it was three, four years ago, but to get it up to the next level, there needs to be partnership with a private entity that can provide professional-grade type of equipment and instruction.”

Gary Ellwood, KCC marketing director and film and video instructor, said the resources the center will provide for students will be essential toward their career goals.

“The opportunity to be surrounded by a like mind in a creative endeavour is always important, whether you’re in the school or out of the school, and the creative technology center will give us a hub where people will be surrounded by other people doing this kind of work,” Ellwood said.

Ellwood said one of the challenges in the film and video industries is access to equipment without incurring costs.

“For those graduates of our program who choose to continue to work in the field, they will need access to cameras and to lights and edit and sound gear,” he said. “The Creative Technology Center is a dream that furthers what our students are chasing while they’re here.”

Kruse said he and professionals like him will serve as mentors at the center.

“It will create a creative meeting place so that people who have more experience than me and way better skills than I do will be to come and start doing mentorships with young musicians,” he said. “I believe the central hub like the tech center will just allow a really awesome, creative space to put out some amazing projects.”

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