As I take the reins of the Economic Development Committee, I am looking for guidance on what we can do to move our business community forward. At this point I am working with one of our legislative priorities: grow, attract and retain businesses that further diversify our economy in sustainable ways. However, I am open to other topics to pursue with state and county leaders, so please share your ideas.

On July 14, Randy Kurohara and Kim Kobayashi with Community First, along with the Executive Director of the Hilo Medical Center Foundation, Lisa Rantz, gave a presentation on the recently completed comprehensive health needs survey titled Access to Care. With the combination of Covid restrictions and physician shortages, there are widespread access to care delays. For example, 57% of respondents reported they are behind schedule on routine exams and 37% said their physical health is worse than before Covid. Additionally, it may get worse before it gets better as over 40% of health care providers on the island were contemplating retiring, leaving medicine, or moving to the mainland. For further details and to see the final report, go to

The August 11 Economic Development Committee meeting featured a presentation on the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) by the ProService Hawaii team led by Steve Seto and Joan Fujita, a principal accountant at Accuity. The federal Cares Act included the PPP program along with the ERC, and while the PPP program has run its course, the ERC program is still in effect. Basically, the ERC program rewards employers with up to $26,000 per employee for keeping staff on payroll during the pandemic. To qualify there needed to be a significant decline in gross quarterly receipts of 50% in 2020 and/or 20% in 2021 versus the 2019 baseline, or full/partial suspension of business due to a government order. There is a three-year window to apply, so check with your accountant to see if you qualify.

Please join us for the next Economic Development Committee meeting held every second Thursday of the month at noon. Reach out to the Chamber office and Taylor or Miles can add you to the zoom. I have invited Doug Adams, the Director of the County Research & Development Department, to our next meeting on September 8th to talk about the projects they are working on and how we can partner together to keep our business community healthy.