Business & Economy
Vibrant, diverse and highly valued as a desirable location to live, visit or do business, Kaua`i has an economic climate as fertile and inviting as the island itself.
Today Kauai’s economy, among the state’s healthiest, is a combination of tourism, technology, agriculture, education, construction, state/local government, defense and a myriad of businesses that support the local community.
Much of Kauai’s work force is linked directly or indirectly to the visitor industry. Visitor accommodations, eateries, retail services, transport and activities comprise a significant portion of Kauai’s economy. Kaua`i provides a stable, welcoming atmosphere for tourism related businesses from large corporate hotels and nationwide chain stores to small, privately operated companies.
Kaua`i Economic Development Board
Also supporting the business community on Kaua`i is the non-profit Kaua`i Economic Development Board (KEDB) (www.kedb.com) whose primary purpose is to explore ways to diversify Kauai’s economy, and create and strengthen industries that can flourish on Kaua`i.
The KEDB currently has more than a dozen government affiliates including the Kaua`i Chamber of Commerce, the Office of Economic Development (County of Kaua`i), the Kaua`i’ Community College, the State of Hawaii’s Governor’s Office, High Technology Development Corporation and the Kaua`i Visitors Bureau.
Kaua`i Office of Economic Development
The mission of the County of Kauai’s Office of Economic Development (OED) is to work with business, government and community to create jobs and build a balanced and thriving economy. Staffed to support industries such as tourism, film production, agriculture and energy-related programs, OED also has placed heavy emphasis in recent years on supporting emerging industries (such as high tech), and on workforce development. OED is also responsible for collecting data and maintaining statistical information and reports, to be used as a library resource for individuals, businesses and organizations. The public is provided access to materials in the OED library, and to a greater extent on the County’s website: www.kauai.gov. An up-to-date, extensive, interactive database of Kauai-specific economic data can be accessed via OED’s webpage, or at kauai.uhero.isdi-hi.com.
In this era of economic growth and stability, OED is poised to strengthen our core industry – tourism – and support emerging industries from the ground up. Efforts to improve infrastructure and the array of services, products and activities to our visitors has been a major focus under Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr.. Refurbished parks, walking tours through business districts, support for agricultural tour operators and the creation of new value-added agricultural products are just a few of the projects ongoing at OED. Partnerships with the business community, our schools and the public at large will help emerging industries such as high tech, health tourism and renewable energy flourish on Kaua`i, while preserving the rural nature of our island home.
The Kauai Economic Development Board and the County of Kauai have published a Kauai Economic Development Plan 2005-2015. To view the plan and, for more information on the County of Kaua`i, visit www.kauai.gov.
The County Office of Economic Development can be reached at (808) 241-6390.
Kaua`i Visitors Bureau
Kauai’s visitor industry is supported and promoted by the non-profit Kaua`i Visitors Bureau (KVB) www.gohawaii.com which maintains effective partnerships with community, government and business interests on Kaua`i’. Additional visitor information can be found at the Kauai County website at www.kauai.gov To receive a FREE travel planning guide, contact the Kauai Visitors Bureau.
Technology & Defense
Technology and defense play an important role in Kauai’s economy with the West Kaua`i Technology & Visitor Center (WKTVC) and the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) both major employers on Kauai’s west side.
The West Kaua`i Technology & Visitor Center www.wkbpa.org/visitorcenter.html in beautiful Waimea Town features its historical and present agricultural community. Static exhibits and displays, based on themes relevant to visitors and residents alike, are changed periodically to reflect the time of year, local celebrations, ancient Hawaiian traditional lifestyles, and the ethnic diversity of the West Kauai community.
The center also has a video presentation about the island. Computers with free Internet access are available and the center manages a conference room with tele-conferencing capability for a fee and advance booking.
Further west at Barking Sands, the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) (www.cnic.navy.mil) is the world’s largest instrumented multi-environment range facility for supporting, testing and training battle operations and national defense objectives for the Department of Defense and other government agencies.
Additionally, PMRF provides fleet training for the U.S. Navy and the navies of allied nations and plays a significant role in the testing and evaluation of future systems, including the AEGIS ballistic missile defense system and upcoming THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Air Defense) system.
PMRF is one of Kauai’s largest employers with nearly 1,000 active duty Navy, government, civil service and contract civilians, and Hawai`i Air National Guard members. PMRF’s prime contractor is ITT Services, with approximately 500 employees, providing base support as well as high-tech range safety and scheduling operations. Numerous other contractors, both on and off Kaua`i, are associated with PMRF.
An active participant in the community, PMRF participates in the Mayor’s Adopt a School program, and is actively engaged in math and science programs and facility upgrade projects. PMRF is also the largest business contributor to the Kaua`i Food Bank and many of its employees serve as sports program coaches and mentors for Kauai’s youth.
Employment at PMRF remains stable, with a possible increase in opportunities arising from future programs such as THAAD.
Kauai’s agriculture started in the early Hawaiian lo`i kalo (terraced taro fields) and continues to form a vital part of the economy of this tropical rural county.
The aptly named Garden Island is, from an agricultural perspective, a challenging, but rewarding place to do business. Kauai’s 365-day-a-year growing season affords farmers and gardeners the opportunity to grow everything from tropical fruits and flowers to traditional Polynesian and row crops, endangered native plants and exotic hardwoods.
The largest coffee estate in the U.S. is the Kaua`i Coffee Company on Kauai’s south side which has 3,400 acres dedicated to growing an annual yield of 3.5 million pounds (60% of Hawaii’s total output).
In terms of economic value, Kauai’s number one crop today is seed corn which is grown largely on west Kaua`i and exported to the U.S. mainland. Other important crops include coffee, guava and taro. Also, on the north shore, in the Hanalei Valley, roughly two-thirds of Hawaii’s six million pounds of poi taro (an important traditional Hawaiian staple) is grown and processed.
Additionally, Kaua`i farmers grow papayas, bananas, tropical specialty fruits like rambutan, lychee and longan, row crops like bok choi and lettuce as well as hardwoods like teak, mahogany, albizia, and tropical flowers, although none of these are major crops now.
Beef cattle are also raised and exported to the U.S. mainland while small hog and chicken operations remain for domestic consumption.
The landscaping and nursery businesses are also important to Kauai’s agriculture economy.
For more information about agriculture on Kaua`i, visit the Hawai`i Department of Agriculture: www.hawaii.gov/hdoa
Although Kaua`i is a small island in the middle of the ocean, living here isn’t quite like a survival game. All the conveniences and technology that support a thriving economy in the rest of the country are available here, just on a smaller scale.