Think About It: Economic Tomorrows - KFVE, K5-Hawaii News Now, Local Programming

February 3, 2014

Think About It: Economic Tomorrows

The recent year-end tourism figures, while solid, showed a definite slowdown in the 2nd half of 2013, with continued slowdown projected through this year. While it's not time for Chicken Little to suggest that "the sky is falling", the numbers and ripple effects remind us again how fragile our economy truly is. In the meantime, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that about 625,000 people currently work in Hawaii. Three categories of employees make up about 60% of our workforce as government; leisure and hospitality; and trade, transportation, and utilities each count for about 20% of the workers locally.

So where are the next great growth opportunities for jobs in Hawaii? IS there a single one? The three aforementioned employment areas have each averaged less than 1% growth in workers over the past decade- they are mature and somewhat volatile businesses. The question becomes, is that the way it's got to be moving forward, or can we help to create demand and opportunity in other areas- perhaps in medicine or technology? Hawaii is a perfect crossroads for Eastern and Western medicine, and tech companies might find Hawaii alluring to potential employees vs. Charlotte, Seattle, and the Bay area.  What about smaller industries that could see growth here like aquaculture, sports and eco-tourism, and what about alternative energy options?

We need to look for economic pushers, not drivers, beyond our annual bread and butter industries, even if it means establishing 10-20 small areas of concern vs. a single big idea. We need to brace ourselves for the next tourism slowdown or military cutback before those events occur. Where is the foresight and leadership to evolve Hawaii into its next phase of economic opportunities vs. economic dependency? We are addicted to what's worked for the past 60-years, and that's proven successful in many ways, but there's no time like the present to look ahead, before we get left behind. Think about it…


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