WASHINGTON, D.C. — The vibes are great for the sixth annual Hawaii on the Hill.
And the reason is simple.
“We’re on a mission of aloha and when you come in with that attitude I think people are very receptive, no matter what is going on politically,” said Mark Perriello, Kauai Chamber of Commerce president.
Sen. Mazie K. Hirono and the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii will host the widely attended state showcase on Wednesday. More than 2,000 people packed the Taste of Hawaii on Capitol Hill last year to learn about Hawaii businesses that represent a range of industries from agriculture to technology.
Hawaii on the Hill gives Hawaii businesses the opportunity to directly hear from government leaders and key congressional officials while spotlighting Hawaii products and services to members of Congress and the Washington, D.C. community.
Of the estimated 150 people from around Hawaii, about 25 percent are from Kauai, which sent its Who’s Who of legislative, business and community leaders.
Heading up that list are Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami, Senate President Ron Kouchi, chairman of Hawaii on the Hill; Pacific Missile Range Facility Commander Capt. Vinnie Johnson; Rep. Jimmy Tokioka; Kauai Coffee General Manager Fred Cowell and Koloa Rum President and CEO Bob Gunter.
“It’s a great group,” Perriello said.
This year, a main goal is again to spread the word about Kauai and its many unique businesses such as Kauai Kookie.
Perriello said Washington, D.C., is “a world away,” nearly 5,000 miles from Kauai, so Hawaii on the Hill is “a great opportunity to bring the aloha spirit” there.
They hope to help people understand what it means to be from Hawaii.
“It’s almost a goodwill mission, in many ways,” he said.
It’s also a chance for Hawaii businesses to access markets in the D.C. area while doing some lobbying at the same time.
In years past, such lobbying resulted in Hawaii receiving federal money to battle the coffee borer beetle.
In 2015, Hawaii received $1 million, to be shared with Puerto Rico, to battle the invasive beetle that for four years prior had been ravaging the Big Island. That was in addition to $1.8 million allocated to Hawaii in 2014.
That’s why advocacy work during Hawaii on the Hill is important, Perriello said.
Over three days there, Kauai’s leaders will attend meeting, hear briefings on issues key to Hawaii and talk story with elected officials.
During a “Hawaii on the Hill Policy Summit” small business owners and industry leaders will have the opportunity to connect with federal policymakers and agencies to offer research and technical assistance.
Taste of Hawaii always proves to be wildly popular on Capitol Hill. This year, Hirono will be joined by over 60 businesses representing all Hawaii counties.
Perriello said Hawaii on the Hill is “tremendously important” to Kauai and he believes with such a strong contingent, Kauai will benefit in many ways.
“We’ve been able to have some really important conversations that have a made a difference for Kauai businesses,” he said.