LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i Government Employees Federal Credit Union’s CEO Monica Belz, 37, has been recognized by Pacific Edge magazine’s 2020 Business Achievement Awards as Hawai‘i’s Business Executive of the Year.
“I am humbled and honored to receive this award,” Belz said. “I believe the true heroes are all around us; my team of staff and volunteers, community members stepping up, small-business owners, our Kaua‘i leaders, our farmers, our health-care first responders, and the list continues. Together, this island can make it through anything,”
“Thank you, Kaua‘i, for inspiring our state and our nation during these unprecedented times,” Belz said.
Belz has been at the helm of KGEFCU for three years, navigating local businesses through the floods on Kaua‘i in 2018 and now steering the community through a pandemic, as the island pivots toward a more diverse and resilient economy.
On Kaua‘i, she shapes a dynamic island vision for economic growth grounded in sustainability and social entrepreneurship. Recognized as a “rock star” in the national credit-union movement, her leadership qualities extend far beyond natural disasters.
Belz has been living social entrepreneurship since her teens. She is a mother of three kids, she surfs, snowboards and rock climbs, and her beliefs embody a generation of millennials who value diversity, equity and inclusion. She is deeply invested in KGEFCU’s mantra, “From Kaua‘i, For Kaua‘i, and dedicated to serving those who teach, protect and care for the people of Kaua‘i.”
“Supporting the local community is our first priority,” Belz said. “Some are sixth-generation farmers, and others are businesses that have cautiously rebuilt from the floods only to be hit hard by the economic reality of this pandemic.”
Belz is delivering a big impact on a small island, with a model of financing that values people over profit, at the forefront of a credit-union movement that is coming of age in the midst of the pandemic.
In partnership with the community and charitable organizations and federal funding agencies, this small credit union, founded in 1947, has delivered over $8 million in aid since March, in the form of rent relief, emergency-response loans, business boost programs and start-up investments such as the Common Ground Incubator Program.
With a new branch in Kilauea that opened Sept. 1 to serve Kaua‘i’s North Shore, KGEFCU manages approximately $140 million in assets. “We are building a new market of borrowers,” Belz said, “recirculating money to the local economy. This investment not only puts food on the table, it supports the diversification and scalable innovation. Every dollar matters.”
Belz likens KGEFCU’s mission to the Hawaiian hukilau tradition, with the credit union at the center of a community of pioneers who pool local resources to create impact and economic growth for the people of the island.
Her team members echo her passion. “We take care of our community in a way that makes me proud to work here,” said KGEFCU Business Development Officer Chantal Zarbaugh said.
Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.