LIHUE — The $20.5 million Kauai Creative Technology Center remains on track for a 2017 groundbreaking and possible opening in late 2018 or early 2019.
“There are no big obstacles,” said Alan Tang, president of Olomana Loomis ISC, a business consulting firm in Honolulu. “Knock on wood, the reason for that, I think, is the support of the people.”
“This project, if it’s successful, will really have the whole island galvanized behind it,” he added. “Whether people realize it or not, this is truly a game changer.”
Tang said the center will touch “every phase of this community, whether education, job creation, economic development. It’s really broad. This is definitely a worthwhile project, that’s why we’re keeping our finger crossed.”
The center, about four years in the planning stages, got a big boost last year when the Kauai County Council unanimously approved a 99-year license agreement with the Kauai Economic Development Board to allow the center on a portion of property next to Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.
The cost? $1 a year.
Tang said they considered 17 locations, including private land, in the Kapaa/Lihue corridor.
“We wanted to explore any possibilities,” he said.
There were some conditions, like minimal overhead.
“So cheap land is a yes,” he said, laughing. “The county gave us a very favorable term.”
Plans call for a 30,000-square-foot multipurpose creative technology site for film industry job training and workforce development programs. It will offer facilities for filming, editing, recording, performances, lectures and meetings.
It would be the only professional film studio and post-production facility on Kauai, and would bring high-speed broadband Internet connection to Kauai, which is the only Hawaiian Island without such a creative technology center.
It is billed as offering “A thousand possibilities under one roof.”
Tang has given many presentations on the center and people often want to know how the center will benefit them.
“It touches a lot of people in different ways,” he said.
While it will have an annual $2 million budget and employ about 10, its impact will ripple throughout the island, said Susan Tai Kaneko, president and CEO of the Kauai Economic Development Board.
“People are interested in the creative industries. And it’s not only about film production,” she said. “It’s about studios being able to help the musicians. It’s about graphic design. It’s about a whole realm of creative industries.”
It involves job creation, careers and economic development.
“That’s where it’s at for us. We need it to benefit the community,” Kaneko said.
For instance, film production companies on Kauai generally use just a few locals to be part of their crews. But if people here had the education and training in that area, companies wouldn’t need to bring staff from the Mainland.
“Those opportunities are what KEDB is all about,” Kaneko said. “That’s what this project is all about.”
“For us to be even more a thriving mecca for film production, we need to raise local talent and be able to play on the global stage,” he said.
Jobs in technology are higher paying, he said, and trends indicate growth in that field.
“So we want locals to have skills to get them,” she said.
Next up is the environmental impact study, which should take about four months.
And, of course, there’s a matter of money.
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.
Tang, who was hired by the KEDB a few years ago to examine the feasibility of establishing a media center on Kauai, completed his report in June 2012. He’s been involved in raising awareness of the project and the need to fund it. The project received $500,000 in state funding last year and Kaneko recently met with legislators to generate support for the tech center. Tang is hopeful for another $2 million this year.
He said the center will not just increase economic development “but provide more resiliency in our economy.”
“This is the year where it makes all the difference whether we meet our deadline or not,” he said. “Major funding needs to come in this year.”
One point Tang wants to make clear is that those who would provide major funds for the center have their own question: “Are people on Kauai supporting the Kauai Creative Technology Center?”
The answer is yes, Tang said. But more financial support is encouraged. He would love to see hundreds of locals making small donations at kauaicreativetechcenter.com.
“The reality is, we need people to support this project,” he said.
He and Kaneko noted that the Lihue Town Core, where the tech center will be located, is in line for a revitalization thanks to a $13 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant.
The project calls for the addition of pedestrian and bike lanes on Rice Street, a shared-use path from the Lihue Civic Center to the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall, and bicycle and pedestrian improvements on Hoolako Street.
“That whole area is going to be revitalized,” he said. “This will drive a lot of activity into Lihue, and it’s really dynamic activity.”
And Kauai, he said, may be changed for the better by the tech center.
“It is meant to be transformative,” he said.