August 2011 KA WAI OLA COLUMN
`Ano`ai kakou… Times are tough for Hawaii small businesses. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (6/8/11) that we had “one of the nation’s poorest-performing economies last year, registering growth of just 1.2 percent,” which was the “44th lowest
out of the 50 states and was well below the national average.”
To add insult to injury, the State was forced to increase taxes at the worst possible time. In July, the vehicle registration fee increased by $20 to $45. The weight tax increased a penny to 1.75 cents per pound for vehicles up to 4,000 pounds. The rental car surcharge increased to $7.50 a day from $2 a day until June 30, 2012, when it goes down to $3 a day. Matson Navigation
also imposed a $52 charge on all in-coming cargo to help recover costs related to paying the general excise tax. (Star-Advertiser, 6/26/11)
So what can the State do? I have two quick suggestions:
INCREASE APEC OPPORTUNITIES
Our elected leaders should insist that more is done to allow local small businesses to have a crack at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) service contracts. The APEC meeting of trade and foreign ministers from 21 Pacific Rim countries will take place here in Honolulu from November 7-13 and is expected to attract 20,000 attendees, including 2,000 journalists. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will also be in attendance.
The APEC Hawaii Host Committee has estimated that the conference will generate about $131 million in spending in Hawaii, but how much of that money will trickle down to the Hawaii’s small businesses? So far, it seems like the only real winners are the big high-tech companies that are providing technical or communication services and the Waikiki hotels providing the approximately 120,000 rooms that are needed.
Surely our elected officials can ask that APEC open up more service opportunities for our small businesses. After all, various
government agencies have collectively given tens of millions of dollars to APEC, including OHA.
STOP AIRLINE SEAT LOSSES
According to the Star-Advertiser (6/3/11), our state will lose 188 airline seats in September after American Airlines’ recently decided to drop its only direct daily flight between San Francisco and Honolulu. I believe that high-traffic flights to major
cities on the West Coast are an important part of Hawaii’s tourism-based economy and should be increased rather than eliminated.
Although Hawaiian Airlines has said they will help to meet the demand by adding 30-seats beginning in November 2011, as a frequent business traveler, I can attest to the fact that the San Francisco flights are always packed to capacity. A 30-seat addition by Hawaiian Airlines will not be enough to meet the demand.
In fact, the American Airlines decision seems to only be focused on their plans to retire older, less fuel efficient planes and not on whether there is a market for this flight.
Our economy cannot withstand any further erosion of our tourism market. We must fight the loss of these seats. Losing this daily flight will result in a reduction of jobs for American Airlines employees and other related jobs in the tourism industry and will also cause further losses in state tax revenue at the worst possible time.
If you agree with me, please write or e-mail your elected leaders to do more for small businesses during the APEC meetings.
Aloha Ke Akua.