“We have what it takes. We have the intellect, the inquisitiveness, and an entrepreneurial know-how to invent and incubate a knowledge sector in Hawaii.”
“Over these many years, I’ve been honored to support the University of Hawaii’s research endeavors and to encourage the growth of our technology sector. It is my hope that this conference will encourage a greater intersection and connection between the two.”
Senator Daniel Inouye
DIVERSIFYING HAWAII’S ECONOMY
Hawaii’s unique location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean provides unique challenges as well as important opportunities. On one hand, the Hawaiian Islands are remote from the U.S. mainland, small geographically, with a population of nearly a million people. On the other hand, as Senators Inouye and Akaka pointed out in their conference keynotes, the islands are strategically located as America’s “front door” to the vibrant economies of East Asia and are home to unique geographical features and land and marine life, as well as a rich cultural heritage.
Indeed, the participation of U.S. Senators Inouye and Akaka, as well as Governor Abercrombie, Lieutenant Governor Schatz, and U.S. Representatives Hirono and Hanabusa at the conference telegraphed the strong commitment of Hawaii’s leadership to develop the state’s economy through investments in knowledge-based growth.
The need to diversify and grow Hawaii’s economy was underscored by Dr. Carl Bonham of the University of Hawaii Economy Research Organization (UHERO), who reviewed the islands’ history of economic dependence on a series of single-products. This, he said, began some two centuries ago with the domination of the sandalwood market and continued through export economies based successively on whaling, sugar, pineapple, the military, and, currently, tourism. The state is, and will probably continue to be, a popular destination for visitors worldwide who seek a reliably balmy climate in an exotic setting, but the growth potential for traditional tourism is limited by transportation, lodging, and other constraints. Dr. Bonham also noted that the island has also relied on the support of military bases since World War II, but the contribution of this sector is unlikely to grow significantly.
While the state will certainly continue to benefit from visitor-based revenues and military spending, the challenge for this century, he said, is to develop the multi-sector, interdisciplinary capacities needed to generate S&T-based innovation and diversify the state’s opportunities for economic growth.