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Molokai Chamber of Commerce Update

Area businesses discuss the future.

MCoC News Release

The Molokai Chamber of Commerce would like to thank everyone who attended our March 24 Membership meeting at Hotel Molokai. Each of you contributed to its resounding success. A very special thank you goes out to the following individuals: guest speaker James Tollefson, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii; Lawrence Lasua, Molokai Community Federal Credit Union for the generous donation; Maria Holmes, Coffees of Hawaii for providing the speaker gift; Daniel Emhoff, AKAKU Television, for recording the event; Michael Drew and the Hotel Molokai staff for the elegant setting and delicious food; and Dawn Bicoy, for volunteering her time with event administration.

Mr. Tollefson, our guest speaker, was named president and chief executive officer of The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii in August 2001. Covering a broad range of topic, his emphasis was on the free market and private sector economy. “It’s all about jobs. The Chamber of Commerce and its members create private sector jobs,” said Tollefson. Hawaii is one of the most difficult places to do business. Together, businesses and Chamber members need to lobby the legislature to create a more positive climate for the private sector. The message? The private sector creates jobs and provides tax revenues that pay for government operations. When government needs money, it comes to businesses with increased taxes and fees that could be utilized to create jobs. We need to make Hawaii an easier and less expensive place to do business.

Top priority this year was the increase in Unemployment Insurance contributions.  With the help of Chambers and businesses in a statewide effort, HB 2169 HD2 was passed and signed into law by Governor Lingle. “The chamber is most pleased that the governor signed this important piece of legislation that will save businesses thousands of dollars on an ongoing basis over the next two years. It was important to save jobs, and we were concerned that if the law was not passed that additional jobs would be lost in this difficult time,” said Tollefson (COC Hawaii website, 3/23/2010). The new law will save businesses an annual average of $440 per employee and keep unemployment benefits flowing to laid-off workers, saving Hawaii businesses $99 million this year and $142 million next year, according to state estimates. Another priority is reducing the cost of government and keeping business taxes down.

Tourism and the military, Hawaii’s two largest industries, are projected to create $22 Billion in 2010 revenue. These benefits cycle through all islands providing a strong foundation. However, the recent economic downturn significantly impacted tourism and drastically reduced travel and convention spending. We must face a new reality in this economy. Banking has changed. Health care has changed. Costs have increased. Businesses need to survive before they can thrive. We need to exercise cost control measures and focus on business fundamentals, by thinking outside the box, looking for inventive ways of doing business, employing new marketing techniques, and utilizing new media to strengthen our businesses.

The banking and credit markets present a continuous challenge because of the volatility that still exists.  “We need a psychological input to refuel the economy,” said Tollefson. “When money moves, the economy improves.” 

The newly passed federal health care reform law could significantly affect Hawaii businesses. State Insurance Commissioner J.P. Schmidt said the state will have to spend $300 million more on Medicaid because of expanded coverage required by the health reform act. Even though no one knows the full impacts, our businesses are sure to feel it.  Someone has to cover the costs.

According to Mr. Tollefson, there are some new and encouraging business activities that are on the horizon: the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperative conference in 2011 will put Hawaii front and center on the world stage and serve as a major influx of revenue. Hawaii is the place where East meets West, and will provide a platform for future conferences. Local businesses with new world technologies look promising.  The Hawaii Seed Corn Industry utilizes our year round growing season and provides much needed tax revenue to the state. In addition, we have the world’s greatest Astronomy Center at Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii, both examples of technological areas that will help foster and maximize growth.
The COC Hawaii is the only liaison between the military and private sector and is on the lookout for compatible technologies, thus encouraging a dual use and sharing of resources between the two.
The potential development of an alternative energy grid between Molokai, Maui, Lanai, and Oahu.   This may initially raise costs, but in the long term will lower overall rates.  We need to find ways to be more energy self sufficient.

 Remember to speak out and make your voices heard. The business community needs your support.  For more information please contact the Molokai Chamber of Commerce 808 553 4482 molokaichamber@hawaiiantel.biz

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