LIHUE — Sherry Menor-McNamara gave a pop quiz of sorts to the Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce Saturday night.
How many bills, the president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii asked, go through the state’s annual legislative process?
“Take a wild guess,” she said.
Someone shouted 2,400.
“Higher,” Menor-McNamara said.
Five thousand, came the next guess.
“Thank God, no,” she said with a laugh before about 60 people at the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club.
The correct answer, about 3,000.
Then, she asked, “How many senators are there?”
Mostly silence, so she gave the answer: 25
And finally, how many representatives?
Again, mostly silence, so Menor-McNamara told them: 51.
There was a reason for her three-question test. What happens at the Legislature, she said, is critically important to businesses, big and small.
That’s why she and her staff recently finished reviewing bills and their potential impact on the state’s business community.
That’s why the chamber must have a voice, a storyteller, at the Legislature, she said.
“Someone needs to be at the Legislature to tell the story of the chamber, of the business community, of the impact businesses have on the state and our economy,” Menor-McNamara said in her 20-minute talk as the keynote speaker.
The Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce, which installed its 2019 board Saturday and presented awards, is doing its part.
President Laurie Yoshida highlighted its many accomplishments in 2018, from its annual golf tournament that raised about $15,000 to co-sponsoring candidate forums around the island to its foundation that raises money for scholarships. It also donated funds for disaster relief after the April flooding.
It will be working with The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii to keep an eye on proposed bills and have that voice with legislators, she said.
“We’ll get information to you that affects our businesses and our community,” she said.
But they couldn’t do all that without committed members and volunteers, Yoshida added.
“Thank you everybody for a great 2018 and we really look forward to 2019,” she said.
Volunteer of the Year Randy Francisco urged members to get involved.
“Service and investing in your community are critical to the future of economic development,” he said.
Menor-McNamara, who just marked 13 years as the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii president, told the crowd to look beyond “What’s in it for me,” and instead, focus on “What’s in it for Hawaii.”
“Sometimes, I think we tend to forget that,” she said.
By thinking collectively and collaboratively about Hawaii, she said, “We can do so much more as chambers of commerce, as a business community, and continue on this path toward a healthy economy.”
She praised Kauai’s legislators, Reps. Dee Morikawa, Jimmy Tokioka and Nadine Nakamura, and Senate President Ron Kouchi, for watching out for the island’s best interests.
“They really speak up for Kauai,” she said.
And she had good words for the island, too.
“I think Kauai rocks. And why? Because one, the people,” she said, smiling.
Building relationships is also critical at the Legislature, she said, especially with the young professionals in their 20s and 30s.
“They need to know, they need to know from their own peers, how legislation impacts them,” she said.
“Everything at the Legislature is primarily about relationships,” she added.
Businesses are listening.
Hawaii on the Hill, five years ago, saw 25 businesses and 50 people fly to Washington, D.C. Last year, it sent about 2,000 people, including 150 from Kauai.
Menor-McNamara also spoke of three guiding principles she learned from her family while growing up: always help younger siblings, the next generation, and help them become leaders, movers and doers; be kind to others; and always think about the greater good.
“That has never left me in every chapter of my life,” she said.