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County of Hawaii Soliciting Proposals for Economic Development Grants

The Hawaii County Department of Research and Development is soliciting proposals for economic development grant awards in preparation for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

Research and DevelopmentThe intent of the grant program is to support sustainable economic development in agriculture, business development, energy, film, STEM industries, and tourism. Proposals must address and support the program goals and objectives for the above subject areas. Proposals submitted shall be reviewed and considered for the receipt of funding to supplement existing or proposed project or program budgets for the applicant organizations.

All proposals reviewed and recommended for funding by the Department of Research and Development shall be subject to the availability of funds. Notification of the Department’s approval and recommendation for funding shall be made by June 30, 2016.

Proposal forms, specifications and special provisions can be obtained at the Department website at http://www.hawaiicounty.gov/research-and-development/ or call (808) 961-8366. Questions regarding clarification of any information contained in the Solicitation for Proposals document, including all attachments, must be received in writing on or before March 14, 2016. The County of Hawai‘i reserves the right to reject any proposal.

Public Information Sessions:

The Department of Research and Development is hosting two public information sessions to explain the grant program process for potential applicants.

Special guest, Tim W. O’Connell, Assistant to the State Director, Rural Development, US Dept of Agriculture, will also be there to present information on Rural Development opportunities that may complement applicants’ projects and provide sources of matching funds.
Registration for these sessions is not required, but will be appreciated so that we know how many people to expect. Please use the links below to RSVP to either of the sessions.

RSVP for the West Hawai‘i Public Information Session Tues., Feb 16th, 1:30 p.m. WHCC Bldg. G

RSVP for the East Hawai‘i Public Information Session Friday, February 19, 2016, at 1:30 p.m. County of Hawai‘i Aging and Disability Resource Center 1055 Kinoole Street, Suite 101, Hilo Training Room

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) – has identified South Kohala as a priority area for funding. NFWF will award grants to address negative impacts to coral reefs and improve coral reef management effectiveness. Average grant award range $30k – $75k and matching funds are required: http://www.nfwf.org/coralreef/Pages/crcf2016rfp.aspx  or contact Julia Rose (808) 268-0479 julia.rose@tnc.org. for more information.

USDA Federal Planning Assistance for Broadband & Sustainable Community Development – Cool and Connected –will help community members develop strategies and an action plan for using planned or existing broadband service to promote smart, sustainable community development. Submit letter of interest to Ed Fendley at Fendley.Ed@epa.gov by Wed., Feb. 24, 2016 – include “Cool & Connected” and the name of your community in email subject line.

Hawaii Takes Part in Multistate Settlement Against Moneygram

Settlement to Provide Restitution for Consumers that Used MoneyGram to Make Fraud Induced Transfers

Stephen Levins, Executive Director of the State of Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection, today announced a settlement with Dallas based MoneyGram Payment Systems, Inc. resolving a multistate investigation which focused on complaints of consumers who used MoneyGram’s wire transfer service to send money to third parties involved in schemes to defraud consumers. In addition to Hawaii, 48 states and the District of Columbia participated in this settlement.

Moneygram

Click to view details of settlement

“We believe that this settlement will help to protect vulnerable consumers from wire fraud”, said Levins. “Crooks routinely use wire transfers to con unwary consumers out of their money. Anytime someone insists that a money wire is the only method to transfer funds to them red flags should go up, especially if it involves a lottery or sweepstakes. No one should ever wire money to claim a prize. If you do, you’ve been scammed and you’ll never see your money again.”

The settlement has two main components. First, MoneyGram has agreed to maintain and continue to improve a comprehensive and robust anti-fraud program designed to help detect fraud and prevent consumers from suffering financial losses as a result of these types of fraud induced wire transfers. The program must be documented in writing and at a minimum, must include the following elements:

  • Mandatory and documented compliance training for agents and guidelines regarding when an agent’s conduct warrants suspension or termination;
  • Suspension or termination of agents who fail to take commercially reasonable steps to reduce fraud induced money transfers;
  • A hotline system – telephonic and electronic- where employees and agents can report noncompliance with anti-fraud measures;
  • Sound mechanisms to evaluate actual fraud rates and consumer losses from fraud induced money transfers in order to utilize that information to improve compliance; and
  • Continued enhancement of technology solutions, including its Anti-Fraud Alert System (AFAS).

Second, MoneyGram has agreed to pay a total of 13 million dollars to the states to fund a nationwide consumer restitution program and for the states’ costs and fees. Hawaii’s portion of the settlement will be $85,000.

The settlement provides for an independent third party settlement administrator who will review MoneyGram records and send notices regarding restitution to all consumers who are eligible to receive restitution under this settlement. Generally, consumers who are eligible for restitution previously filed complaints with MoneyGram between July 1, 2008, and August 31, 2009, regarding fraud induced transfers sent from the U.S. to foreign countries other than Canada.

More information about this settlement is available at the Settlement Administrator’s website: www.MoneyGramSettlement.com/.

In addition to Hawaii, the following states participated in the settlement: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.

Hawaii Parks and Recreation Seeks to Hire Adults for Temporary Summer Fun Jobs

The Hawai‘i County Department of Parks and Recreation is seeking to hire adults for temporary summer jobs working with keiki who attend its 2016 Summer Fun Program.

Summer Fun

Summer Fun activity aides and activity technicians will earn $11 per hour and $14 per hour, respectively. Applicants will be asked in which districts they prefer to work, although enrollment levels and program needs will determine the recreation sites used for 2016 Summer Fun activities.

Applicants must be at least 18 years old at the time of employment, possess current First Aid certification, submit a completed Summer Fun application, and be available to work May 31 through July 15, 2016. Summer Fun starts June 6 following a mandatory four-day training period for all temporary employees.

Summer Fun applications are available online at http://www.hawaiicounty.gov/pr-recreation, the Department’s main office at 101 Pauahi Street, Suite 6 in Hilo, the Recreation Division Office at 799 Pi‘ilani Street in Hilo, and various County gymnasiums located around the island.

Completed applications must be filed with the Recreation Division or postmarked by Tuesday, February 16.  For more information about the Department of Parks and Recreation’s 2016 Summer Fun Program job opportunities, please contact the Recreation Division at 961-8740.

Waipi‘o Valley Stakeholders Alliance Offers United Voice on Bishop Museums Announcement to Sell Its Waipi‘o Valley Lands

On January 8, 2016, Bishop Museum issued a public announcement they are moving forward with the sale of the Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in Capt. Cook and 537 acres of land in Waipi‘o Valley.

Green areas represent Bishop Museum Land.

Green areas represent Bishop Museum Land.

While the news has taken most of Hawai‘i by surprise, it is not the case for the Waipi‘o Valley community. Over the past 20 years, the Museum has periodically considered selling it’s Valley holdings, and there have been several proposals by State legislators for the state to purchase the lands, the most recent in 2014.

Since 2013, the Waipi‘o community has undergone major changes, with three of the most committed groups becoming more organized and actively seeking ways to work together collaboratively on matters that impact the Valley and surrounding communities.

In late 2015 the Waipi‘o Taro Farmers Association, the Waipi‘o Community Circle and Ha Ola o Waipi‘o Valley formed the Waipi‘o Valley Stakeholders Alliance as a mechanism to reach general consensus and provide a unified voice when communicating with government officials, Bishop Museum and the general community.

Founded in 1989, the Waipi‘o Taro Farmers Association (WTFA) is the oldest active organization in Waipi‘o Valley. The Association is made up of generational taro farming families who lease the majority of Bishop Museum ’s lands in the Valley. WTFA represents the surviving edge of the Native Hawaiian culture in Waipi‘o Valley and serves as Bishop Museum ’s primary land managers and local community advisors.

Formed in 2000, at the request of 13 community members, the Waipi‘o Community Circle (the Circle), serves as a general community forum. The Waipi‘o Valley Information & Education Officer Program was created by the Circle, as were the five large interpretive signs at the rock wall near the pavilion. A small group of Circle volunteers provided general oversight of the Information & Education Officer program from 2007 until 2014 when the program moved to the Department of Parks & Recreation. This group also represents the efforts of Auntie Ku’ulei Badua who was responsible for initiating “Friends of the Waipi‘o Community Park ” (the former Rice/Thomas property, at the Waipi’o lookout).

Founded in 2014 Ha Ola o Waipi‘o Valley (Ha Ola) is a membership organization of Valley residents, farmers, cultural educators and practitioners, and Waipi‘o tour operators. The organization is guided by elected Officers with support from the County of Hawaii , the State of Hawaii , Kamehameha Schools and Friends of the Future. Ha Ola was formed to provide representation for Valley stakeholders who were not recognized in the State’s 2013 proposed Senate Bill to purchase Bishop Museum’s lands in Waipi‘o. Among Ha Ola’s current projects are River Maintenance in collaboration with WTFA, stewardship of Kamehameha Schools Valley beach parcels, eradication of Little Fire Ants in the Valley and a 2016 Kalo Festival.

The Waipi‘o Valley Stakeholders Alliance, combines the strengths of all available community and advisory resources and is committed to protecting current lessees and ensuring the community has a lead voice in proactively engaging Bishop Museum in discussions about the future stewardship of its’ Waipi‘o Valley lands.

For more information about the Alliance contact:

Alliance Community Liaison: Jim Cain, Cell: 333-0457 kinglaulau@hotmail.com

Alliance Culture & Education Liaison: Ka‘iulani Pahio, Cell: 960-5272 kaiulani@kalo.org

Honolulu Selected for “Local Foods, Local Places” Federal Initiative

On behalf of the White House Rural Council, six federal agencies joined to announce 27 communities selected to participate in Local Foods, Local Places, a federal initiative that helps communities increase economic opportunities for local farmers and related businesses, create vibrant places, and promote childhood wellness by improving access to healthy local food.

Local Foods Local Places

“Local Foods, Local Places helps people access healthy local food and supports new businesses in neighborhoods that need investment,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The program is good for the environment, public health and the economy. By helping bring healthy local food to market and offering new walking and biking options, Local Foods, Local Places can help improve air quality, support local economies, and protect undeveloped green space.”

Honolulu was one of the cities selected in 2016 from EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region:

Honolulu, Hawaii – The Hawaii Community Development Authority will focus their Local Foods, Local Places efforts on plans to identify food-based projects that will spur greater investment and stewardship in the Kakaako Makai community; enhance local food production; integrate food security initiatives with community and transit-oriented development planning; and reduce stormwater runoff and vulnerability to sea level rise.

The selected communities were chosen from more than 300 applicants.

Each Local Foods, Local Places partner community works with a team of experts who help community members recognize local assets and opportunities, set goals for revitalizing downtowns and neighborhoods, develop an implementation plan, and identify targeted resources from the participating federal agencies to help implement those plans.

Local Foods, Local Places is a partnership among the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Transportation, the Appalachian Regional Commission, and the Delta Regional Authority. The initiative was launched in 2014 and has already helped 26 communities make a difference in people’s lives.

Local Food, Local Places is one of the administration’s community-based initiatives in action across the country. In these places federal experts are working side by side with residents and local leaders to create customized solutions; bolstering coordination across agencies and improving how we interact with communities as a ‘one Government’ partner; and relying on valuable data to help inform solutions and evaluate what is working and what is not.

A complete list of communities participating in the Local Food, Local Places Initiative can be found at http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/local-foods-local-places-summary-reports

Building and Design Expo Feb. 12-14 – Live Cooking Demo and Book Signing with Sam Choy

The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce presents the 11th annual Building & Design Expo February 12 – 14 at the Sheraton Kona Resort at Keauhou Bay‘s Kaleiopapa Convention Center.

Celebrity Chef Sam Choy, known for his Hawaiian cuisine, will feature his newest kitchen accessories line, Sam Choy’s Hawaiian Kitchen. He will also do a live cooking demo and book-signing.

Abbas Hassan of Tiki Shark Art, Sam Choy and Kirstin Kahaloa, Executive Director of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce

Abbas Hassan of Tiki Shark Art, Sam Choy and Kirstin Kahaloa, Executive Director of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce

Touted as “Hawai‘i Island’s largest home show,” more than 40 vendor booths will exhibit their goods and services in the three-day event. From general contracting and materials to home design and décor including fine art, the expo often features furnishings, blinds and shutters, window-tinting, kitchen countertops, cabinets and flooring, pest control PC solar and financing.

Event sponsors include Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union, Hawaii Gas, P.A. Harris Electric, Renewable Energy Services, Sam Choy & Tiki Shark Art and West Hawaii Today. Contact the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce office at marketing@kona-kohala.com or 808.329.1758.

Kamehameha Schools and the Pauahi Foundation Announce the Return of Mahiʻai Match-Up

Kamehameha Schools and the Pauahi Foundation announce the return of Mahiʻai Match-Up – an agricultural business plan contest dedicated to supporting Hawaiʻi’s sustainable food movement and decreasing the state’s dependence on imports.  Mahiʻai means farmer.  The contest is open to all farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural entrepreneurs. The application window opens today and ends Feb. 29, 2016.

Pahoehoe Parcel

Pahoehoe Parcel

“Mahiʻai Match-Up provides a venue for farmers and entrepreneurs to access some of our most valuable agricultural lands,” said Sydney Keliʻipuleʻole, senior director of statewide operations for Kamehameha Schools. “Kamehameha Schools is engaged in an ongoing effort to work with community partners to find and nurture talented farmers with innovative ideas that will increase food production for Hawaiʻi’s market.”

The top two business plans will receive an agricultural land agreement with up to five years of waived rent from Kamehameha Schools and seed monies from the Pauahi Foundation totaling $35,000 to help increase the probability of long-term, sustainable success.

Ulupono Initiative – the Hawai’i-focused impact investing firm – is once again lending its support to the business plan contest.

“Ulupono Initiative is proud to continue its partnership with Kamehameha Schools and Pauahi Foundation to assist talented farmers in realizing their dream of establishing a bona fide agricultural business in Hawaiʻi,” said Murray Clay, managing partner of Ulupono Initiative. “The goal of Mahiʻai Match-Up directly aligns with our mission of making Hawaiʻi more self-sufficient by increasing local food production. The group of entrants from the first two years has been impressive, and we are excited to see what year three has in store.”

Hawaiʻi Farm Bureau’s “Hawaiʻi Food and Farm” magazine is also a sponsor of the contest.

This year the program provides more opportunities for aspiring farmers with the introduction of Mahiʻai Mentorship – a competition created through a partnership between the schools and GoFarm Hawaiʻi aimed at developing the next generation of farmers.

Four applicants will be chosen to receive funding from Pauahi Foundation and Kamehameha Schools to attend GoFarm Hawaiʻi, a program that turns the AgCurious into AgProducers. Valued at $3,000, participants are given a combination of knowledge, experience, and support designed to assist them in becoming viable production growers, and accomplish it in a manner that encourages sustainability.  Applications for Mahiʻai Mentorship will be accepted from March 1 through May 2, 2016

To apply for the Mahiʻai Match-Up contest or for more information, visit http://www.pauahi.org/mahiaimatchup/index.html.

2016 Mahiʻai Match-Up Parcels:

 

Consumers’ Last Chance to Enroll for 2016 Healthcare Coverage Quickly Approaches

deadline

The open enrollment period for individuals and families to sign up for 2016 healthcare coverage through HealthCare.gov ends this Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016. Individuals who were enrolled through the Hawai’i Health Connector in 2015 must re-enroll for 2016 coverage through HealthCare.gov or they will no longer be insured. Individuals and families without insurance are strongly urged to enroll either through the online portal HealthCare.gov or by phone 1-800-318-2596 by 10:00 p.m. on Jan. 31 to retain health insurance coverage in 2016.

If individuals and families would like in-person assistance, there are Kōkua on each island ready to help. Please visit hawaiihealthconnector.com/appointment for a list of partner organizations on each island or hawaiihealthconnector.com/events for a list of nearby enrollment events.

Outside of a few Special Enrollment circumstances (e.g. a period for residents from nations under the Compact of Free Association (COFA), which include the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau), individuals who miss Sunday’s deadline will be unable to get health insurance through the marketplace until Jan. 1, 2017.

Rep. Ing & Thielen Introduces Industrial Hemp Legislation – Will Allow Individuals to Research, Grow and Sell Hemp in Hawaii

Representatives Kaniela Ing (Kihei, Wailea, Makena) and Representative Cynthia Thielen (Kailua, Kaneohe Bay) are joining forces to introduce a measure that expands industrial hemp research, growth, cultivation and marketing activities in Hawaii.  Following the models used in other states, including Kentucky and Colorado, the bill supports partnerships with the private sector to further explore industrial hemp’s potential contribution to the state’s economy.

hemp legislationAlexander and Baldwin’s recent announcement that it will end sugar production at Maui’s Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. (HC&S) will free about 36,000 acres of agriculturally zoned land at the end of 2016, prompting question over what crop would replace sugar.

“There is a huge groundswell of support from the general public and members of the agriculture sector to legalize industrial hemp,” said Rep. Ing.  “While hemp is not a magic bullet for Hawaii’s struggling agriculture industry, it does deserve our consideration, especially with the closing of sugar operations by HC&S.

“I believe industrial hemp now has bi-partisan support, as well as widespread support across generations.  It’s time has come.”

“With its ability to cleanse the soil of toxins, industrial hemp could be an environmentally friendly replacement for our agriculture industry,” says Representative Thielen, a longtime and enthusiastic supporter of legalizing industrial hemp.

“Hemp is often grown without pesticides or herbicides due to its natural ability to ward off unwanted insects and weeds.  Furthermore, hemp’s potential as a biofuel feedstock could be a game-changer for Hawaii.  There are over 25,000 different uses for hemp and in U.S. alone, the market for hemp seed oil and fiber is approximately $600 million a year.”

Smoking Costs the Average Hawaii Smoker $2,186,781 Over a Lifetime

With Tobacco-Free Awareness Week reminding us of the societal and economic costs of smoking, which total more than $320 billion a year and rising, the personal finance website WalletHub today released its report on The True Cost of Smoking by State.

smoking and money

To encourage the more than 66 million tobacco users in the U.S. to kick the dangerous habit, WalletHub’s analysts calculated the potential monetary losses — including the cumulative cost of a cigarette pack per day over several decades, health care expenditures, income losses and other costs — brought on by smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.

The Financial Cost of Smoking in Hawaii (1=Lowest, 25=Avg.):

  • Out-of-Pocket Cost per Smoker – $164,538 (Rank: 49th)
  • Financial Opportunity Cost per Smoker – $1,555,886 (Rank: 49th)
  • Health-Care Cost per Smoker – $175,171 (Rank: 35th)
  • Income Loss per Smoker – $278,260 (Rank: 46th)
  • Other Costs per Smoker – $12,927 (Rank: 41st)
  • Total Cost Over a Lifetime per Smoker: $2,186,781

For the full report, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/the-financial-cost-of-smoking-by-state/9520/

Meet Celebrity Chef Sam Choy at the 11th Annual Building & Design Expo

The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce will hold its 11th annual Building & Design Expo February 12 – 14 at the Keauhou Convention Center at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay. Celebrity Chef Sam Choy will make a special appearance and demonstrate his cooking skills all three days of the Expo.

Building and Design Expo 2016

Friday evening the expo is open to the public from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. Saturday expo hours are from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Visit numerous exhibits featuring home design, construction and remodel ideas including home decorating; fine art; windows and doors; flooring and window treatments; kitchen and baths, home energy products and more. The booths will present products, services and information relating to the building and improvement of homes, apartments and condos. Enter to win giveaways and drawings at vendor booths.

Attendees can also enter to win a grand prize: a 2-night stay at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa.

For additional information regarding the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce Building & Design Expo, go to www.kona-kohala.com or call the Chamber office at 329-1758.

Hawaii Tropical Fruit Grower Surveys Fruit Growers With Goal to Increase Production

What fruit, and how much, is being locally grown? What fruit do growers want to plant in the near future? What do growers need to help them successfully produce fruit? These questions and more were asked in a recent survey conducted by the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers (HTFG).

Jackfruit

Jackfruit

Funded by the County of Hawai‘i’s Department of Research and Development, the HTFG Survey of Tropical Fruit Growers collected data from HTFG member and non-member respondents from July through September, 2015.

“The purpose of the survey was to determine what actions to take and to fullfill grants to get fruit trees into the hands of growers to increase local production,” said Alyssa Cho, assistant researcher in sustainable farming systems with an emphasis in tropical fruit and nut production at University of Hawaii-Manoa.

Avocado

Avocado

Using Survey Monkey, the project found 88 percent of growers have planted citrus, followed by 83 percent cultivating avocado and 82 percent farming bananas. Other top fruit included mango, papaya and pineapple.

The survey’s 138 participants claimed a total of 42,955 planted fruit trees. Of these, 2,586 were citrus. Limes were the top type of citrus grown, at 81 percent, followed by lemons, oranges and tangerines.

Apple was the most popular banana variety with 88 percent of respondents claiming to grow them, followed by red bananas at 34 percent. Sharwil led the varieties of the 2,151 avocadoes grown followed by Yamagata and Kahaluu. Washington Navel and Valencia were the most planted types of oranges.

Top criteria used for selection of fruit trees grown on farms included cost of plant and time needed to produce crop, followed by disease resistance and value for home use. Respondents said they keep 52 percent of their crop for personal use and directly sell 30 percent to wholesalers, 24 percent at farmers markets and the rest at fruit and farm stands, retail stores and restaurants.

The “biggest barrier to planting more trees now” was lack of space according to 37 percent of respondents and not enough labor to care for trees said 24 percent. Labor was cited as the top area of assistance needed at 43 percent, followed by horticulture/production at 25 percent.

“Other specified areas of assistance requested included market access, tips for managing market over supply and pest management,” noted Mark Suiso, HTFG president who oversaw implementation of the survey.

Jaboticaba

Jaboticaba

When asked what exotic fruit trees were desired by growers in the next two years, nearly 50 percent of respondents listed fig and breadfruit, followed by dragonfruit, jackfruit, passionfruit, mangosteen, jaboticaba, pomegranate, cacao and durian.

“The results of the survey identify what trees growers want to plant over the next few years and what type of trees we should try to clone for our members,” detailed Ken Love, HTFG executive director. “It also tells HTFG what we should focus on for study and grant writing.”

Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers

Marking its 27th year, HTFG was incorporated in 1989 to promote tropical fruit grown in Hawaii. It is a statewide association of tropical fruit growers, packers, distributors and hobbyists dedicated to tropical fruit research, education, marketing and promotion; www.htfg.org.

Alexander & Baldwin Announces Transition of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company to a Diversified Farm Model

Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. today announced that it is transitioning out of farming sugar and will instead pursue a diversified agricultural model for its 36,000-acre Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (“HC&S”) plantation on Maui.

Alexander and BaldwinSugar operations will be phased out by the end of 2016, and the transition to a new model will occur over a multi-year period. No immediate layoffs will result from today’s announcement and approximately half of the 675 employees will be retained through the end of the sugar harvest, which is expected to be completed late in 2016. Beginning in March, employees will be laid off as their specific functions are completed. Under the new diversified model, the plantation is planned to be divided up into smaller farms with varied agricultural uses, potentially including energy crops, food crops, support for the local cattle industry, and the development of an agriculture park.

“A&B’s roots literally began with the planting of sugar cane on 570 acres in Makawao, Maui, 145 years ago,” said Stanley M. Kuriyama, A&B executive chairman. “Much of the state’s population would not be in Hawaii today, myself included, if our grandparents or great-grandparents had not had the opportunity to work on the sugar plantations. A&B has demonstrated incredible support for HC&S over these many years, keeping our operation running for 16 years after the last sugar company on Maui closed its doors. We have made every effort to avoid having to take this action. However, the roughly $30 million Agribusiness operating loss we expect to incur in 2015, and the forecast for continued significant losses, clearly are not sustainable, and we must now move forward with a new concept for our lands that allows us to keep them in productive agricultural use.”

“This is a sad day for A&B, and it is with great regret that we have reached this decision,” said Christopher J. Benjamin, A&B president and chief executive officer, who ran HC&S as its general manager from 2009 to 2011. “Having had the privilege of working alongside the employees of HC&S for two years, I know firsthand the professionalism and dedication with which they perform their jobs. The longevity of the plantation is a testament to their resourcefulness and hard work. This transition will certainly impact these employees and we will do everything we can to assist them. The cessation of sugar operations also will have a significant impact on the Maui community and we will do our best to minimize that impact. A&B remains committed to Maui and will continue to be a significant corporate supporter of Maui charities and organizations.”

Employee Transition & Support
A&B is committed to supporting its impacted employees. The Company will provide transition coordinators to assist HC&S employees in finding alternate employment opportunities. The coordinators will identify and coordinate available federal, state, county and private job assistance programs (including employment counseling, job training, financial counseling, job placement and education services).  A&B will offer all employees enhanced severance and benefit packages. Retirement benefits accrued by eligible employees, retirees, and past employees will not be affected by the transition out of sugar. Additionally, the Company will consider displaced employees for positions in its new operations as they become available.

“We are very focused on helping our employees during this time,” Benjamin said. “Many of our employees have dedicated their careers to HC&S and have followed in the footsteps of previous generations of family members that worked on the plantation. We are grateful for their years of service and we will support them through this transition period.”

Transition to Diversified Agriculture
“A&B is committed to looking for optimal productive agricultural uses for the HC&S lands,” said Benjamin. “Community engagement, resource stewardship, food sustainability and renewable energy are all being considered as we define the new business model for the plantation. These are leading us toward a more diversified mix of operations.”

The Company is evaluating several categories of potential replacement agricultural activities. These include energy crops, agroforestry, grass-finished livestock operations, diversified food crops, and orchard crops, among others.

HC&S has several test projects underway to further assess these opportunities, and the Company plans to expand the scope and scale of the trials during the coming year. Initial projects include:

  • Energy crops:  Building upon its extensive experience with crop-to-energy production, HC&S has initiated crop trials to evaluate potential sources of feedstock for anaerobic conversion to biogas. This on-farm testing currently is being expanded from plot to field-scale and HC&S has entered into a confidential memorandum of understanding with local and national partners to explore market opportunities for biogas. HC&S also is assessing the potential of cultivating purpose-grown oilseed crops for biodiesel production and has entered into preliminary, but confidential, discussions with other bioenergy industry players to explore additional crop-to-energy opportunities.
  • Support for the local cattle industry:  The Company is exploring the costs and benefits of irrigated pasture to support the production of grass-finished beef for the local market. HC&S has converted a test site of former sugar land to cultivated pasture and is working with Maui Cattle Company to conduct a grass-finishing pasture trial in 2016. High-quality grazing lands could enable Maui’s cattle ranchers to expand their herds and keep more cattle in Hawaii for finishing on grass.
  • Food crops/Agriculture park:  A&B plans to establish an agriculture park on former sugar lands in order to provide opportunities for farmers to access these agricultural lands and support the cultivation of food crops on Maui. HC&S employees will be given preference to lease lots from the company to start their own farming operations.

“Transitioning HC&S to a diversified agribusiness model underscores A&B’s commitment to the community and our intention to keep these lands in active agricultural use,” said Benjamin. “It will take time but, if successful, these efforts could support the goals of food and energy self-sufficiency for Hawaii, preserve productive agricultural lands, and establish new economic engines for Maui and the state.”

Hawaii Survey Shows Many Young Adults Erroneously Believe Government and Health Insurance Cover Long Term Services and Supports

The majority of people in Hawaii erroneously believe their health insurance plan and government programs will cover the costs for long term services and supports, according to a recent statewide survey commissioned by of the State of Hawaii Executive Office on Aging.

Department of HealthThe survey, conducted by Market Trends Pacific as part of a long term services and supports public awareness campaign, showed that slightly more than half of respondents, about 54 percent, are very or fairly familiar with long term care, while about a fourth of the respondents, or 24 percent, has any familiarity with long term services and supports. Those who are least aware of long term care are younger residents who have been in Hawaii for 20 years or fewer, non-home owners, persons without a college degree, and males.

Uncertainty about Payment for Long Term Care

The survey results showed many are unclear about who pays for long term care: 39 percent think that their health insurance covers long term care, and 24 percent trust that the government will help them. The majority of respondents identified health insurance, personal savings, Medicaid or Medicare as funding sources.

“Many in Hawaii may be aware of the need for long term care, but there is clearly a smaller percentage who are aware of the need to prepare for the costs associated with that care,” said Terri Byers, director of the Executive Office on Aging. “We know that we should save and plan for college or retirement, but long term care is not often part of the picture, despite the fact that 70 percent of us will use long term services and supports at some point in our lives. We recognize that we must begin to change this.”

Hawaii’s Younger Population Most Vulnerable

The cost of long term care is one of the obstacles to preparing for long term services and supports. Young adults may have other financial obligations and may already have difficulty making ends meet. “This is not an issue on their radar and the costs may make many shy away from even trying to plan for long-term care,” Byers said.

“The Executive Office on Aging is launching a public awareness campaign in early 2016 to help people understand their options and the need to plan ahead to enjoy more choices, and to avoid the risks of not being financially prepared,” Byers said. Many have been led to believe impoverishing themselves to qualify for government assistance is the best solution, but this ultimately limits their options.”

“It is clear that there are no private products available on the market that provide an answer for everyone and the best made plans don’t always materialize. Our ultimate goal is to initiate a conversation and inspire more people to find out all they can to be prepared mentally, emotionally and financially to create a personal plan for care that is sustainable and adaptable.”

Survey Information

Market Trends Pacific, Inc. conducted a total of 603 surveys of full-time residents (six months or more) of Hawaii who were 18 years of age or older. The sample included RDD (random digit dialing) residential landline and cell phone numbers from a professional national survey sampling firm. Respondents were also encouraged to complete the survey online. Market Trends Pacific developed the questionnaire in conjunction with communications consulting firm, Strategic Communication Solutions, and the Executive Office on Aging. There was a total of 297 landline phone and mobile interviews and 306 online questionnaires.

The survey results are available from the Executive Office on Aging’s Aging and Disability Resource Center website at www.hawaiiadrc.org.

In the survey, 366 interviews were completed with residents of the City & County of Honolulu, 108 with Hawaii County residents, 73 with residents of Maui County, and 56 with Kauai residents. The statewide data file was weighted on the basis of estimates of the number of householders by county and age from the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census, with equal gender counts assumed. The sample design in the table below features expected sample precisions for the counties ranging from plus or minus 5.12 to 13.08 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level and a precision for statewide results of plus or minus 4.06 percentage points.

Hawaii Electric Light Signs Contract to Buy Hamakua Energy Partners Generating Plant

Hawaii Electric Light Company has signed an agreement to purchase the 60-megawatt Hamakua Energy Partners (HEP) generating plant currently owned by an affiliate of the Boston-based private equity firm, ArcLight Capital Partners, LLC. The $84.5-million purchase agreement, which requires approval by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC), is expected to result in lower costs for customers and will support continued integration of renewable energy from variable sources such as solar and wind.

Helco new Logo 2

“We’re pleased to reach an agreement that can benefit our customers in many ways,” said Jay Ignacio, president of Hawaii Electric Light. “It’s expected to result in immediate savings to our customers compared to what they would pay under the current contract. It will also allow us to make better use of the plant’s cycling capabilities to help us continue to lead the nation in integration of renewable energy.

“We are committed to achieving Hawaii’s 100 percent renewable portfolio standard goal and having the flexibility to operate this plant will help.”

Ignacio noted that ArcLight officials approached Hawaii Electric Light about the potential purchase of the plant.

The negotiated sale is estimated to save customers a net $42 million after the purchase price over the remaining 15 years of the existing power purchase agreement. A typical Hawaii Island residential customer could save at least $1.40 per month on their electric bill. If the plant remains in service for its full estimated useful life, projected net savings for customers could total approximately $80 million.

Customers will save from the elimination of payments to HEP under the current contract for making energy available 24 hours a day, as well as elimination or reduction of other costs. For example, the combustion turbine equipment used at the HEP facility is the same as that used at another Hawaii Electric Light generating station, leveraging operational expertise and allowing better procurement and utilization of equipment parts.

Hawaii Electric Light will also be able to make the most of the HEP plant’s cycling ability to support the integration of variable renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. The current contract limits how often the plant can be stopped and started. By owning the plant, Hawaii Electric Light will have greater flexibility to cycle HEP’s generating units, exercising greater operational flexibility to support renewable energy and use HEP’s efficient generating units.

The HEP plant comprises 23 percent of Hawaii Island’s generating capacity and produced about 16 percent of the island’s energy in 2014. The plant includes two combustion turbines, a steam generating unit, and two heat recovery steam generators.

This combination of generators allows the plant to operate as a more efficient “combined cycle” plant with the steam generator running on the captured waste heat from the two combustion turbines, producing additional power without burning more fuel. The combustion turbines currently run on naphtha, a cleaner fossil fuel, and could be converted to use even cleaner and potentially lower-cost natural gas or renewable biofuels in the future.

The plant also includes a “black-start” generator that can restart the plant in the remote event of an island-wide outage.

Hawaii Electric Light intends to submit the purchase agreement to the PUC and the Hawaii Division of Consumer Advocacy for review before the end of the first quarter of 2016.

VIDEO: Part II – UPS Man Goes Ballistic Tossing Packages Out of Truck

Yesterday I posted a video about a UPS guy going ballistic throwing packages out of his truck.

UPS GuyHere is the second part to that video:

This is what the YouTube poster said about the video:

UPS worker in Hawaii gets mad cause he can’t drive or park then guns it around to park and tips load and then starts throwing packages with fragile tape. I hope your christmas gifts are ok…

Hawaii State Accepting Grants-in-Aid Applications Starting Next Week

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Jill Tokuda and House Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke announced that qualified nonprofit and other organizations will again be able to apply for State Grants-in-Aid (GIA) that may become available and will be under consideration during the 2016 Regular Session.

CapitalPrevious grants were appropriated to nonprofit and other organizations for various public purposes that were recognized as priorities and seen as complimentary to state government functions, including health, educational, workforce development, and social services and cultural and historical activities.

In order to allow the Legislature time to thoroughly review applications, the deadline to submit grant applications will be 4:30pm on January 22, 2016.  Last year, the Legislature awarded nearly $30 million in grants to non-profits across the state.

Information on the GIA process will be made available on the Legislature’s website (www.capitol.hawaii.gov) next week. Any questions, contact the Ways and Means Committee at 808-586-6800 and the Finance Committee at 808-586-6200.

Hawaii Ranked in Bottom Five States for Economic Freedom

An extensive survey of economic freedom in the United States, Canada, and Mexico shows Hawaii as one of the five worst performing U.S. states, tied for 46th place with New Mexico. The report, Economic Freedom of North America, is published by the Fraser Institute and co-published by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, the Aloha state’s free market think-tank.
economic freedomThe comparative survey of economic freedom is based on ten different factors in the areas of government spending, taxes, and labor market freedom. Overall, the report notes that economic freedom has been declining in North America as further constraints are added to the ability of individuals to act in the economic sphere. The localities with the best scores on the Index are Canadian, with New Hampshire coming in as the most economically free state.

Placement on the Index not only indicates comparative economic freedom in a region, but also economic success. The report notes a positive correlation between economic freedom and economic growth, per-capital size of the economy, and entrepreneurial activity. Per capita income also reflected the position on the Index, with the least free quartile having a average per-capita income nearly 8% below the national average, while the most-free quartile was almost 7% above it.

“Hawaii’s abysmal showing as one of the least economically free states in the U.S. is no surprise to those of us who have been advocating for change in the state,” said Keli’i Akina, Ph.D., President of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. “It is well-known that the burdensome regulation and taxation schemes of our state discourage investment and entrepreneurship–and are especially unwelcoming to small business.”

“With the legislative session nearly upon us, it is critical that we address the lack of economic freedom with new policies based on best practices and a focus on real reform,” Dr. Akina continued. “In the next month, the Grassroot Institute will be hosting a panel where we will discuss the necessary steps to making our state more economically free and in which we will release a special Hawaii supplement to the EFNA report. We will, of course, be inviting all legislators to join us for that event and we hope they will take advantage to learn more about the policies that can turn around the state’s economic performance.”

The Economic Freedom of North America can be viewed at:  http://www.freetheworld.com/efna.html

Support for Proposed Merger of NextEra Energy and Hawaiian Electric Industries Grows

NextEra Energy, Inc. and Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc. today announced that support for the companies’ proposed merger continues to grow at a steady pace, as evidenced by the more than 25 diverse groups that in recent weeks have voiced support for the transaction.

NextEra Logo

“As we continue to listen, learn and constructively engage with customers and communities throughout the state, we are extremely pleased to see so many diverse and important stakeholders – from organized labor such as the AFL-CIO and IBEW to business leaders and organizations including multiple chambers of commerce – all echo their support in recognition of the significant and tangible benefits this merger will bring to Hawaii,” said Eric Gleason, president of NextEra Energy Hawaii. “The support we have received from these organizations, alongside our recent agreements with the Department of Defense and the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, further strengthens our belief that NextEra Energy is the right partner to help Hawaiian Electric achieve Hawaii’s 100 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2045, while integrating more rooftop solar, modernizing the electric grids and lowering customer bills.”

“We are thankful and pleased to see so many Hawaii residents and local groups across our state publicly lend their support for the merger of NextEra Energy and Hawaiian Electric,” said Alan Oshima, Hawaiian Electric’s president and chief executive officer. “With its comprehensive commitments to our customers and our communities, NextEra Energy stands ready to be a strong, long-term partner as we work together to build a more affordable, clean energy future for Hawaii.”

The following chambers of commerce, labor unions, local companies and community organizations have voiced support for the proposed merger in recent weeks:

  • Hawaii State AFL-CIO
  • Hawaii Construction Alliance
  • Building Industry Association (BIA) – Hawaii
  • International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 1
  • Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters
  • Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ Local 630
  • Chamber of Commerce Hawaii
  • Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce
  • Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii
  • Filipino Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii
  • Hawaii Korean Chamber of Commerce
  • Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Hawaii
  • Kauai Chamber of Commerce
  • Kapolei Chamber of Commerce
  • Molokai Chamber of Commerce
  • Hunt Companies
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1186
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1260
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1357
  • KTA Superstores
  • L&L Hawaiian Barbecue
  • Makai Ocean Engineering
  • Nalo Farms
  • Navy League Honolulu Council
  • Pacific Resource Partnership
  • Partners in Development
  • Stanford Carr Development
  • United Public Workers Local 646
  • Waianae Coast Community Foundation

DCCA Consumer Alert: Starwood Data Breach – Hawaii Hotels Affected

The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) is encouraging consumers who may have dined or shopped at any of the 54 locations identified by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. to protect themselves from potential credit card fraud.

Starwood made a list of the affected hotels, along with other information, available at www.starwoodhotels.com/paymentcardsecuritynotice. Affected Hawaii locations include: Moana Surfrider; Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa; Sheraton Waikiki; The Westin Ka‘anapali Ocean Resort Villas; The Westin Maui Resort & Spa; and, The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas.

Click to view letter from Starwood President

Click to view letter from Starwood President

“We strongly encourage anyone who has used a credit or debit card to purchase food, drinks, or souvenirs at a Starwood property to check the list of hotels and identified dates of the data breaches,” said DCCA Director Catherine Awakuni Colόn. “According to Starwood, the information compromised could be used to make fraudulent charges on credit and debit cards. Everyone should make it a habit to check your monthly statements and annual credit report.”

DCCA has information on how to protect yourself following a security breach at http://cca.hawaii.gov/identity-theft-information/. This website includes links to sample forms and letters for victims of identity theft to help with the recovery process.

DCCA also partnered with the Department of the Attorney General and the Department of Health to offer guidance on how to avoid fraud and common scams in the Hawaii’s Fraud Prevention & Resource Guide available at http://cca.hawaii.gov/sec/files/2015/10/Fraud-Guide-2.pdf. Tips from the guide on how to protect yourself from credit card fraud include:

  • Keep a record of your account numbers, expiration dates, and phone number and address of the card issuer in a secure place.
  • Save receipts to compare with billing statements. Destroy them when no longer needed.
  • Open bills promptly and reconcile accounts monthly. Report questionable charges immediately and preferably in writing to the card company.

If you think your credit or debit card information may have been compromised in the Starwood data breach call Starwood at 1-855-270-9179 Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CST.