The economy is dominating our daily dialogue – and justifiably so. Given this context, I am pleased that two objective and well-respected national rankings show that the foundation of Hawai`i’s economy is strong and that we are headed in the right direction with our long-term innovation and energy initiatives.
In Forbes magazine’s annual list of best states in which to do business, released July 31, Hawai`i jumped 10 spots to 27th place, compared to 37th in 2007 and 42nd in 2006. Of the six criteria taken into account, Hawai`i ranked fourth in the nation for economic climate and 10th for labor. This is a vast improvement from March 2002, when Forbes’ infamous article said doing business in Honolulu had “become nearly equivalent to suicide.”
Hawai`i also posted remarkable improvement in the State Technology and Science Index published by the Milken Institute, climbing 11 spots to rank 28th overall in the nation. In addition to the strides we’ve made as part of the Hawai`i Clean Energy Initiative, this year’s report praised our Administration’s efforts to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in our schools, which is one of several critical components of our Hawai`i Innovation Initiative.
My Administration has worked hard to advance meaningful change that will help Hawai`i businesses and families. We have made state government more transparent, saved businesses and licensed professionals more than $45 million in waived fees and assessments, and convinced the Legislature to lower the unemployment insurance tax in order to save businesses an estimated $151 million over three years.
Our Hawai`i Innovation Initiative is also helping to move our state in the direction it needs to go to succeed over the long-term, by focusing on developing the intellectual capacity of our work force so that Hawai`i is a place for innovative activity to thrive and grow. Our goal is to reduce our economic dependence on land development and to build on Hawai`i’s principle strength, its people, thereby preserving the natural resources that make Hawai`i a desirable place to live.
In addition to transforming our economy through long-term initiatives, my Administration is also focused on the immediate needs of all Hawai`i residents. Toward that end, my Administration continues to invest heavily in our state’s infrastructure. In recent months, I have released nearly $120 million for public schools and the construction backlog at University of Hawai`i campuses statewide. The state is also moving forward with the modernization of our airports and harbors, all paid for with money generated by airport and harbor users.
I am continuing to urge members of my Cabinet to seize opportunities to maximize federal dollars and partnerships. One striking example of this has been provided by the Department of Human Services, which has secured about $175 million in federal support to assist Hawai`i hospitals over the past five years. In addition, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has received about $5.6 million in federal grants this year to assist Hawai‘i workers affected by recent layoffs.
These efforts, combined with tax relief for residents, bolstering visitor outreach with a focus on the California market, and working to attract outside investments, especially in the area of renewable energy, are immediate steps toward bolstering Hawai`i’s current economic conditions and helping the people of our state.
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