One of the Chamber’s 2022-2023 Legislative Priorities is to grow, attract and retain businesses that further diversify our economy in sustainable ways, including independent health care providers, technology, agriculture, etc. To this end, I invited Doug Adams, the head of the County Research & Development Department to speak with the Economic Development Committee on September 8.

The mission of the R&D Department is to imagine, invest in and collaboratively create a sustainable, equitable, and thriving Hawaii Island. Doug simplified this to diversifying our economy, but then added several goals including affordable housing, wastewater, solid waste, sustainability, economic revitalization and diversification, renewable energy, agriculture and food security. (No wonder I don’t see Doug around town much anymore!)  He started by going over a recent study of how the state and counties are doing after the Covid lockdowns of 2020. For the most part the state has bounced back, and Hawaii County in particular is doing very well by the numbers. Of course, we all know that some people are doing great, and others not so much. In order to try and help those who are still suffering the effects of a Covid economy, R&D is focusing on the following.

  1. Childcare – If childcare is readily available, then more people will be able to go to work.
  2. Universal broadband – When schools and businesses went fully online in 2020, there were several communities on the island that did not have a way to connect to the internet and therefore residents could not do their work.
  3. Digital literacy – Once universal broadband is provided, people will need to know how to use computers and the internet.
  4. Affordable housing – This is a challenge on all islands, but a quickly growing problem on Hawaii Island. (I personally hope that the County realizes the best way to alleviate this problem is to make it easier for people to build – less regulation, simplified building code, and expedited permitting.)
  5. Mental health – The isolation and stress of the pandemic caused issues all across the country, and Hawaii County was not immune to the need for more help.

The focus seems to be on making it easy for people to live and work on the island.  That is the goal of the Economic Development Committee as well. On October 13 we will be meeting with Dr. Lynda Dolan and Dr. Dan Belcher to get a better understanding of the challenges independent health care providers face in the state. The idea is to see how we can help make life easier for them with the goal of attracting more physicians to the island and retaining the ones we have. Part of the challenge people face on the island is adequate healthcare which translates to missed days of work.

On a final note, Doug gave a few profile statistics on Hawaii Island that I wanted to share, so when someone asks you about our island in the near future, you have an answer.

  1. Hawaii Island is approximately 4000 square miles
  2. Our current population is 200,983 (of course this number is wrong as soon as it is calculated, so I will be using 201,000)
  3. Median income is $57,571

Please call the office and let Miles or Taylor know if you would like to be a part of the Economic Development Committee. We are always happy to have more participants.