• Editor’s note: This is the first installment of an eight-part series diving into the county’s efforts for economic recovery.
LIHU‘E — Broadband infrastructure, cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and implementing a new model for visitor travel are among the ideas that can leverage Kaua‘i’s future post-coronavirus.
Back in March, Mayor Derek Kawakami convened eight, sector-centered Kaua‘i Economic Recovery Strategy Teams along with the county’s Office of Economic Development, a group of volunteers and others.
The results of these efforts have been pulled together into 45 recommendations covering the sectors of agriculture, business, construction and public works, education, finance, health care, tourism, and a future team assessing technology and sustainability.
The future team, lead by OED consultant Warren Doi, met over 20 times, with specific subcommittees focused on different areas.
“Every member of the team had an opportunity to work on a recommendation of interest,” Doi said. “Therefore, the final list was comprehensive based on its potential to make a positive impact.”
The team pulled together eight recommendations spanning from supporting broadband infrastructure and establishing a Kaua‘i Works program as a Business Development and Support Center to assist local businesses to foster local innovation and support more entrepreneurship and higher-paying jobs on the island.
On the sustainability side, the group recommended cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by creating a trash-capture-demonstration project through a public-private partnership to identify and secure land, technology, design, permitting, construction and operation.
The group also toyed with the idea of accelerating the conversion of cesspools by converting 80% of 6,700 high-priority cesspools within the next four years in the areas of Po‘ipu, Kapa‘a and Hanalei.
“The discussions developed organically,” Doi said. “Each member of the committee spoke their mind, and collectively we established a list of priorities. Each member championed an idea and formulated a subcommittee of interested parties who helped to work through the details.”
Recommendations from all the teams were prioritized to meet community needs, Business Innovation Coordinator Diana Singh said, like the emergency loan program created with Kaua‘i Government Employees Federal Credit Union.
“We knew we needed to move quickly to implement that recommendation to give our community much-needed financial support,” Singh said.
Then, longer-term goals and recommendations like diversifying the local economy and refocusing tourism were discussed, and ideas shared such as establishing shuttles to and from the airport to resort areas and improving bike and pedestrian infrastructure. Ideas like these, the report says, could reduce traffic congestion, create new jobs and support existing jobs.
“These recommendations represent one aspect of our economic response to COVID-19, and we will continue to strategize ways to meet the needs of the people of Kaua‘i throughout our recovery,” OED Director Nalani Brun said in a press release. “But in order to create a unified vision for our island’s recovery and move forward together, we need the support and ideas of our wider community.”
These efforts can be seen on the Kaua‘i Forward website and in the Kupa‘a Kaua‘i campaign, billed as “a unified vision of our island’s recovery.” The website acts as a guide for residents and business owners to navigate resources like housing, unemployment and loan programs.
Most KERST sectors have hit a pause for the time being as recommendations have been compiled and the community weighs in, Singh said.
”Now that we are in the phase of reviewing and starting to implement some of the recommendations, we may continue to call upon our team members for their guidance and partnership in refining and implementing these recommendations. This will look a bit different for each team. “
The Future: Sustainability and Technology team includes Doi and Ben Sullivan of OED; Tom Shigemoto, recently retired from A&B Properties; Joel Guy of The Hanalei Initiative; David Bissell and Beth Tokioka of the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative; Dan Giovanni of Hawaiian Electric Co.; Leanora Kaiaokamalie of the county Planning Department; Mina Morita, formerly a member of the state House of Representatives and state Public Utilities Commission; and Howard Greene of Gay & Robinson.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.