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CARES grant funding collaboration among Kapa‘a businesses

  • Sabrina Boden / The Garden Island

    Old Kapa‘a Town Business Hui members display rainbows in their windows.

KAPA‘A — The spirit of collaboration, with the help of some Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds, is rejuvenating some east side businesses through efforts of three different groups.

The county awarded the Royal Coconut Coast Association (RCCA) $66,550 to split between the Old Kapa‘a Town Business Hui, the Kapa‘a Business Association and itself.

This grant is overseen by RCCA, with part of these funds going directly toward economic viability, like helping businesses reopen or expand and by re-hiring furloughed workers, according to the project’s contact.

Some of the funds will work to educate potential travelers about Kaua‘i COIVD-19 guidelines and developing consistent COVID-19 messaging and resources that visitors can tap into. In the contract budget narrative, the majority of the funds will go toward marketing, social media, videos and website maintenance.

RCCA was originally launched using $75,000 from Kaua‘i County Economic Development to support east side resorts and businesses while trying to recover from the 2008 recession.

With hotels and resorts currently operating at nearly 99% vacancy, part of the messaging, Margy Parker of RCCA said, is to show Kaua‘i takes COVID-19 seriously and expects its visitors to do so, too.

Then there’s Old Kapa‘a Town Business Hui, who will use its portion of the funds for this coordinated message, as well as helping member businesses acquire personal protective equipment and sanitization stations, and work together to promote member businesses.

Jeni Kaohelaulii is the president of the Old Kapa‘a Town Business Hui, she said the idea to group market Kapa‘a will share the efforts and the reach.

“We don’t want to see any businesses close,” she said. “We’re all trying to be supportive. We can utilize other business’s strengths.”

Old Kapa‘a Town Business Hui is a young organization, Kaohelaulii said, and with the assistance of the county, sought out a partnership with RCCA. “We’re excited to show off who our businesses are,” she said.

And for the sanitization stations, Kaohelaulii said her group has found a local carpenter who will craft the dispensers that will soon be placed along the Kapa‘a corridor.

“We’re trying to source almost everything from Kaua‘i,” she said. “We want to keep this money on our island and Hawai‘i.”

The final piece of this puzzle comes from Mike Hough, the president of Kapa‘a Business Association. For the past six months, he’s watched businesses close across Kaua‘i. Part of that, he said, is because businesses have relied on marketing to tourists for years.

“The story is that we’re a little island on lockdown,” Hough said. “Because of that, we still need tourists dollars to help small businesses.”

Hough explained that even if airlines opened immediately, the damage has been done for businesses. He said it’ll take years for businesses to rebuild.

His solution?

A website hosting local Kapa‘a businesses, specifically attracting past tourists, attracting new business, and maybe showing locals what’s in their backyard.

“In saving lives, we’re killing businesses, so we have to work with within those confines,” Hough said.

The name is still being workshopped, Hough said, but he hopes the interactive website can draw a plethora of international business.

“People buy things that remind them of Kaua‘i,” he said.

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Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or sbodon@thegardenisland.com.

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