Tech center receives $100K

LIHUE — A hub aiming to grow the island’s creative-technology market has received a six-figure grant from the federal government.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, announced Tuesday a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration that supports the Kauai Economic Development Board’s Kauai Creative Technology Center.

The center is estimated to create at least 160 jobs and will aim to serve as an incubator for industries — film, media, education — that will stimulate economic growth and create sustainable jobs on the island. The $100,000 federal grant follows a $500,000 state grant in aid and other donations.

“Creative industries have a critical role to play in helping to ensure that Kauai is able to support the diverse and sustainable job market it needs to compete in today’s global economy,” Hirono said. “The development of the Kauai Creative Technology Center will offer the opportunity to connect across the state and around the world, increasing our creative reach and generating economic growth potential.”

Originally slated to break ground later this year, the center’s timeline for construction is pending following the KEDB’s updated plan to grow the island’s creative-technology market, said KEDB President and CEO Susan Tai Kaneko.

“We are actually in this next stage of doing a lot of program development centered around education and training and build the industry first,” she said. “Economic development demands creating the industry, so whatever you build, you have that critical mass of people who can utilize to its fullest so it can make sense.”

For instance, a transmedia boot camp in March connected 30 people with professionals.

“Basically you have an idea, a story line, but you don’t know whether it should be a full motion picture, play, documentary or game,” Kaneko said. “It brings people from Hollywood and New York and brings the expertise here that help those people with ideas to best figure out what’s the best format to turn their ideas into a commercializable project.”

More programs are expected.

Part of the KEDB’s work is continuing to develop the schematics and exterior elevations of a new iteration of the facility.

The original 30,000-square-foot center space has been downsized to 8,500 square feet to create efficiency.

“Within the last year. We found out a lot of the work our facility would be doing … a lot of that work is being offshored,” Kaneko said. “For better or for worse — editing and production — is cheaper to be done elsewhere.”

Originally estimated at $20.5 million, the preliminary cost for the facility is less than $10 million.

In the meantime, the KEDB will be utilizing Kauai Community College for education and training.

In the planning stage for the past few years, the Kauai County Council approved a 99-year license agreement — $1 a year — with the KEDB for property next to the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall and Wilcox Elementary School in 2015.

George Costa, director of the County of Kauai Office of Economic Development and KEDB board member, said the idea of the center came about from a community effort 13 years ago.

“What started out as a film center/digital media center and production facility in 2004-05, has now become this great project and vision that will provide a facility for our students and aspiring writers and producers here on Kauai today,” Costa said.

The center 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.

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