A who’s who of east Hawaii business leaders gathered in Hilo today to honor the Hawaii Island recipients of the 2015 Small Business Administration (SBA) awards.
The Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce (HICC) held its annual SBA Awards luncheon and general membership meeting Wednesday, April 27, at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel. In addition to the luncheon, a dozen businesses ranging from a pet store to a coffee mill and health care facilities, participated in a business expo held before and after the luncheon.
One of the most interesting aspects of the luncheon was the insight provided by guest keynote speaker Lt. Col. Jake Peterson, commander of Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA). Peterson detailed the economic impact the army installation has on Hawaii Island, as well as provided insights into future plans for the military base.
According to Peterson, more than 200 Hawaii Island residents are employed at PTA. The military commander emphasized that they hire people in the community rather than bringing in outside staff. He said they also conduct outreach with the community and pointed to the fact that nearly 500 people, mostly local school children, attended a recent Earth Day event at PTA.
Peterson also went out of his way to highlight the cultural and natural resources protection efforts undertaken at PTA with nearly 50 professionals dedicated to protecting and preserving endangered species, including three species that are found only on the grounds of the Pohakuloa Training Area.
Peterson noted that like other businesses, the military faces challenges when it comes to operating expenses. Of particular note were the fact that:
~ Army personnel fly Hawaiian Airlines to travel interisland.
While the Army owns a part of Kawaihae Harbor in order to facilitate the deployment of equipment, personnel travel the same way as any other businessperson – via Hawaiian Airlines out of Kona airport. Peterson said it’s cheaper for the Army to fly personnel interisland on Hawaiian than to hire the Air Force to provide flight service for the Army.
~ HELCO made PTA jump through hoops to get their PV system installed.
In discussing their renewable energy programs, Peterson pointed out that PTA diverts 50 percent of all its waste from island landfills through recycling. He also said the military installation recently installed a large photovoltaic (PV) system and received a chuckle from the audience when describing the arduous amount of paperwork HELCO made the Army fill out to install the system.
~ PTA pays $2.5 million a year for water.
Peterson noted that there is currently no water source at PTA and the military pays $2.5 million a year to haul water from Waimea. He added that preliminary tests have shown promise of underground water resources at PTA and that the Army is pursuing exploring these water resources as a way to reduce its water costs.
~Military leaders envision PTA becoming the leading training facility in the Pacific.
Perhaps the most surprising of all of Peterson’s talking points was that the military plans to increase the amount of training held at PTA. During his talk Peterson emphasized that PTA is a joint operations training facility used by multiple branches of the military, not just the Army. He noted that in fiscal year 2014/2015 close to 12,000 troops trained at PTA.
Throughout his talk Peterson commented on the sheer size and terrain of PTA. Encompassing 133,000 acres with rough and mountainous landscapes, a’a lava fields, hot days and cold nights the natural environment enables the military to provide a variety of training opportunities not available elsewhere in Hawaii. Given that PTA is nearly one-third the size of the entire island of Oahu, where the majority of military in Hawaii are stationed, Peterson said it makes sense to bring troops to PTA to train.
Citing the ever-increasing costs of sending troops to training facilities on the mainland, Peterson added that at least two Army Generals want to make PTA the premier training facility in the Pacific Rim. They don’t plan on increasing the overall acreage of PTA, but do plan on increasing the number of personnel using the facilities. Peterson referenced military training facilities in Mississippi and Alabama as examples of such sites that PTA wants to emulate. In comparison, Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, encompasses 134,000 acres and is the largest state-owned field training center in the country. It serves as a major installation for the U.S. Army Forces Command and hosts up to 100,000 personnel annually from the National Guard, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
After Peterson’s talk, Jane Sawyer, SBA district supervisor, introduced the 2016 SBA award recipients. Winners included:
State of Hawaii Small Business Exporter of the Year:
Toshihisa Aoki, Hawaii Fresh Products, Inc.
State of Hawaii Entrepreneurial Success of the Year:
Wayne Kamitaki, Paul Mizoguchi, Guy Kamitaki, and Lynn Ushijima, Maui Varieties Ltd. (includes Ace Hardware and Ben Franklin Crafts.)
State of Hawaii Family-Owned Business of Hawaii:
Martha Greenwell, Arthur Greenwell, and Rhonda Kavanagh, Kealakekua Ranch, Ltd.
State of Hawaii Small Business Advocate for Financial Services:
Arthur Taniguchi, Bank of Hawaii
County of Hawaii Small Business Person of the Year:
Robert Pacheco, Cynthia Pacheco, Hawaii Forest and Trail Ltd. & Kohala Zipline, LLC.
County of Hawaii Small Business Exporter of the Year:
Richard Schnitzler, Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company
County of Hawaii SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year:
Catarina Zaragoza-Dodge, The Locavore Store
County of Hawaii Small Business Advocate for Minorities:
Nancy Ginter-Miller, Hawaii Small Business Development Center and Product to Product, Inc.