2016 Annual Membership Luncheon Address

Sherry Menor-McNamara, President & CEO
July 29, 2016


29July2016 Chamber Luncheon-248Aloha to our keynote speaker, Dan Beckerman, Chamber members, special guests, and our friends and supporters.

Thank you for joining us for our 166th Annual Membership Luncheon.

It is my honor to address you after serving my third year as your President & CEO.

Before I begin my remarks, I want to share a short video highlighting this year’s “Hawaii on the Hill” initiative, launched three years ago. 

It was an honor, once again, to partner with Senator Mazie Hirono and her team to showcase Hawaii’s industries at our nation’s capitol.

This year, it exceeded our expectations. 

Hawaii took Capitol Hill by storm with 100 attendees, representing more than 50 organizations, and 19 industries, traveling to D.C.

300 boxes were shipped, literally, across the country and more than 1,500 Capitol Hill Congressional members, staff and agency representatives attended our Taste of Hawaii event.

Hawaii was, indeed, on the Hill…and here’s what that looked like:

Hawaii on the Hill was a huge production that would not have been possible without the support and participation of our neighbor island chambers and businesses – of all sizes – statewide.

They truly deserve our praise and recognition. These businesses, many of which have participated from the beginning, joined this initiative because they know it’s important to maximize Hawaii’s visibility and goodwill in our nation’s capital.

They committed their time, resources, and their cherished products and services, as well as paying their own way to share our state’s industries with our country’s top decision makers.

Some of these business pioneers are here today.

  • Hawaii Captive Insurance Council/Bank of Hawaii
  • Hawaii Crop Improvement Association
  • Hawaii Food Manufacturers Association
  • Hawaiian Chip Company
  • Island Princess
  • Innovate Hawaii/HTDC
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Kauai Chamber of Commerce
  • Kauai Kookie Company
  • Matson
  • Maui Chamber of Commerce
  • Oceanic Time Warner Cable/Charter Communications
  • The Orchid Lei Company
  • University of Hawaii System

I would also like to recognize Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho for serving as honorary co-chair.

Mahalo to all of you for your outstanding support, dedication and commitment.

At last year’s membership luncheon, we outlined a BIGGER, BOLDER and BETTER agenda, focused on strengthening our initiatives.

This year, we are continuing with these efforts under the banner of the 4 Gs…GRIT, GROWTH and the GREATER GOOD.

GRIT is showing courage, resolve and a strong sense of character. 

To our BOD, committee volunteers and Chamber team, thank you for your daily GRIT.

To our members here today, thank you for your Grit. You deal with the trials and tribulations of running a business, day in and day out, and make time to help build a better business climate for the people of Hawaii.

You clearly demonstrate true Grit.

Jimmy Chan, of Hawaiian Chip Company, like all people from my hometown of Hilo and Waiakea High School, you have Grit.

You had the courage to take an idea inspired by watching the Emeril Lagasse show and turn it into reality.

You’ve grown the small business you started in your garage for local food lovers into an enterprise that exports chips and your Kilauea Fire Hot Sauce beyond the shores of Hawaii.

I know this didn’t come easy.

Jimmy has had his fair share of challenges, including near bankruptcy. But he had the Grit to keep going, peeling taro and sweet potatoes by hand – which he still does, and employing and providing for a team he considers his family.

Kauai Kookie Company…now there’s a family-run business with Grit.

If you’ve ever met the founder and matriarch of the company, Mabel Hashisaka, you would agree that she has Grit. She and her family are celebrating their 50th year in business.

Founded in 1965, Mabel started baking cookies to satisfy a very basic need and provide an island-style dessert to serve at her father’s family business. 50 years later, her simple idea evolved into one of Hawaii’s most recognizable and trusted brands.

Grit, for me, began at home with my own mom. As someone born and raised in Japan, she calls it, another G word, Gambatte!

She opened the doors of her small travel agency more than 30 years ago and is still running her business in a highly competitive and ever-changing market. I know, first-hand, what she went through and continues to go through, running a small business.

I remember talking story with her recently, and she talked about how she struggled and worried all the time about putting food on the table or paying for college tuition. With pure Grit, she did it.

I know that there are hundreds of similar stories in this room today.

I’ve been with the Chamber for 10 years and someone recently commented on how long that has been and asked me, “Do you like your job?”

I’ve been asked that question before, and whenever someone does, I respond with a resounding and passionate YES! Because I believe in the mission of the Chamber – and so does our team.

We wake up every day knowing that we have an important responsibility:  to advocate and support the growth of our members and the economy.   

And, it’s when we hear about the Jimmy’s and Mabel’s in our local business community, that we get even more motivated, and inspired to work even harder and fight for our members.

We have Grit.

Without Grit, we cannot Grow.

And we are definitely Growing. We recently partnered with the Hawaii Food Manufacturing Association to oversee the administration of HFMA, which came about because both organizations believed, it was necessary to work together…in partnership with Innovate Hawaii…if we wanted to Grow the manufacturing industry.

Now, as a combined force, we are 1,400 members strong.

We have also been Growing and strengthening our relationship with the DOE and UH, collaborating to improve our educational system and preparing the talent pipeline for our future workforce.

Our partnership with members like Torkildson Katz Moore Hetherington Harris also continues to Grow, with our annual Employment Law Seminar going on 23 years. This partnership has kept companies up to speed on the latest laws and regulations so that they, too, can continue to Grow and expand their workforce.

In order to Grow as a state and to accomplish our goals, we must have a clear, predictable process.

Those investing in our state must not be subject to political, or special interest intrusions that stop projects midstream.

Or, jeopardize investments once the process has already started.

While we need to be thoughtful and deliberate in our planning, we need to embrace new ideas and technologies that create positive change.

Our traditions and cultures define us, but we must not see every change as a threat to their existence.

They are not static. They all evolve as times and people change.

They must not be used as a reason to halt or avoid beneficial developments that are in our long-term best interests.

With that said, we cannot stay silent. We must be actively engaged. We cannot let the social media firestorm, the anonymous blogger and the irrational disrupters intimidate us or undermine our efforts to do the right thing.

Fear will only stifle our efforts to advance growth. Our state cannot afford to remain at status quo. 

And, Growth done with care and respect will be in the interest of the Greater Good.

We are facing and tackling many difficult issues…rail, homelessness, the economy, housing…

We may not all share the same position on these issues.

Conflicting views are inevitable.

But if we keep our focus on the long-term Greater Good, we can find ways to work collectively, to overcome our differences and arrive at what’s best for the people of Hawaii.

Working together with respect and humility, will enable us to grow our economy and improve our quality of life.

We must continue collaborating with all stakeholders, including the:

  • Legislature
  • County administrations
  • Neighbor island, Oahu, regional and ethnic chambers, including those present today
  • and other business organizations, labor and the diversity of interests represented by our members.

So, Chamber ohana, let’s make the decision to move forward with GRIT, working to GROW our businesses – and the State of Hawaii – all for the GREATER GOOD for generations to come.

In the words of John Wayne, Mr. True Grit himself, who was a frequent visitor to Hawaii, marrying at a Waikiki hotel,

“True Grit is making a decision and standing by it, doing what must be done.”

Mahalo.