Reporter-Pacific Business News

The Chamber of Commerce Hawaii and Innovate Hawaii will host a tour of the Maui Divers Jewelry design center this Friday to showcase for members a local manufacturer.

Last year, the chamber and Innovate Hawaii, a program administered by the High Technology Development Corporation, created the Manufacture in Hawaii initiative, which is led by the Manufacturing in Hawaii Group made up of business leaders in various industries. The chamber is the exclusive representative in Hawaii for the National Association of Manufacturers.

The group meets monthly to discuss issues in the industry. Innovate Hawaii also brings in guest speakers from the Mainland.

Pono Chong, vice president of business advocacy and development at the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, said there are 700 to 800 full-time manufacturing companies in Hawaii which employ a total of 13,000 people. Manufacturers range from food producers like Hawaiian Host to those making component parts of telescopes. Counting part-time manufacturers, like food makers and craft makers, the number of businesses rises to 1,200.

Chong said the jobs generally pay better than other private sector jobs, and believes Hawaii has opportunities even though it may not fit the traditional preconceptions of a manufacturing economy.

“We’re not trying to make automobiles, but we believe Hawaii has a chance in this industry,” he said. He thinks the state can succeed in the remanufacture arena, such as repairing industrial equipment. Usually, things that need to get fixed go to someone on the Mainland, but Hawaii has an opportunity to fix it here.

The group hired Ward Research to provide an assessment to the industry, which found energy to be the No. 1 concern for the industry. It was followed by other Hawaii business concerns such as workforce development, supply and distribution chain, regulation and taxes.

After the assessment, the initiative created a web portal for manufacturers on its website. Users and chamber members can find statistics, links and other manufacturing news.

To keep up the momentum of the initiative, the chamber and Innovate Hawaii are hosting tours. After Friday’s tour to Maui Divers, they plan more tours with manufacturers, including food companies.


Jason Ubay covers tourism and finance for Pacific Business News.


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