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First Dream Green Forum Held at UHMC

Local business owners and college faculty brainstorm priorities for Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy on Maui. “Jobs and revenue are the main priorities.”

May 24, 2012
Ariel Stephens , The Maui Weekly

On Tuesday, May 15, an invitation-only group of business owners and sustainability innovators met at the University of Hawai'i Maui College (UHMC) for the Dream Green Forum, sponsored by the Maui Economic Development Board and part of the SmartMaui Initiative. The goal of the forum was to identify workforce needs for Maui County and review projects identified by the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) report.

Dr. Peter Quigley, associate vice president for academic affairs at the college, and UHMC Chancellor Dr. Clyde Sakamoto both spoke briefly and greeted the forum attendees.

"The lines between the college, business and community sectors are becoming more porous by design," Dr. Quigley said.

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Jeanne Skog, president of the Maui Economic Development Board, presented the current CEDS report and invited forum participants to help streamline and prioritize goals at Maui’s first Dream Green Forum, hosted by UHMC, which centered on “the importance to progress towards a greener future by focusing on people, planet and profit.”

He described the leadership role that UHMC is hoping to take in Maui's sustainability progress, with an emphasis on collaboration with the greater community. The underlying goals of the forum sponsors were to "create quality jobs, align green initiatives with the workforce, and capitalize on the workforce coming out of Hawai'i's two- and four-year colleges."

Jeanne Skog, CEO of the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB), provided an overview of the CEDS report, a plan outlining priority guidelines for grant-seekers and coordinating strategy throughout the state. The MEDB administration requires the plan to be updated every five years.

"Jobs and revenue are the main priorities," Skog emphasized.

Current CEDS strategy committees are made up of representatives from the main economic interests in the public and private sectors, as well as traditionally under-represented groups "Clusters" representing interests such as agriculture, recreation, tourism, healthcare and many more require specific ideas and goals for progress and job creation. A balance must be maintained between the need for jobs and revenue, and respect for the environment and native culture. Some projects have been funded, but the CEDS is still being finalized.

"Your job today is to fill out the rest of this roadmap," said Skog.

Scott Cooney, entrepreneur, sustainability advisor, and owner of GBO group and, spoke about green business and innovation. He described progressive business solutions as having a "triple bottom line" (people, planet and profit) by creating jobs, benefiting the environment and generating revenue. He describes himself as an optimist in terms of the environmental future of our country, but sees a lot of work still to be done.

"We've made some bad choices," said Cooney.

He described the inspiring innovations and economic progress that cities such as Cleveland, Ohio, and countries such as Cuba were forced to embrace when their economies took a sharp downturn. Groundbreaking approaches to local agriculture, for example, proved very successful in both places, making farming an economically viable profession.

Cooney also encouraged people to understand the power of voting with their dollars. "Every purchase that you make is a vote toward the kind of society and economy that you want to live in," he said.

Attendees then broke up into smaller groups to discuss priorities and suggestions for the five-year CEDS structure, with strict instructions to keep sustainable job creation as a top priority during their brainstorming.

The Green Energy and Technology group felt that upgrading the current Maui Electric Company grid to accept more energy from renewable sources is a top priority, in addition to the development of energy storage technology. Other popular ideas were the exploration of a Hawai'i-specific LEED certification program and further work on efficient biofuels.

The Healthcare group based their recommendations around the assumption that healthcare is going to change drastically within the next five years due to the economy and the aging of the population. They hoped to increase the number of nurses with bachelor's degrees to 80 percent, and also proposed setting up medical homes and a center on "aging with aloha."

The Agriculture cluster concluded that education is a main priority for their industry, especially in the realm of marketing and business skills. They also touched on the need for infrastructure innovations in areas such as water supply, deer management, regional composting and nutrition.

The High-Tech and Government sector agreed on the need to "re-brand" the image of scientists through mentoring, summer camps, training and marketing in order to attract students to scientific studies. Cyber-security and high-tech job training were also priorities.

The Hospitality and Tourism industry representatives supported projects focused on marketing for the Chinese and Korean visitors' market, improvement of Kahului Airport, and strengthening UHMC and other local partnerships.

The Recreation and Sports representatives floated the idea of marketing Maui as a desirable summer training destination for winter Olympians through state-of the-art facilities and partnerships with the hospitality and healthcare communities. A concerted effort to battle obesity is also a top priority.

Finally, the Creative Arts and Entertainment group hoped for a focus on a Center for Hawaiian Culture and Arts, and a feasibility study for a multimedia production and training center.

These suggestions will be taken back to the CEDS strategy clusters to aid in the plan's completion.

Discussion in small groups at a Green Technology-focused luncheon held after the main forum centered on potential improvements to be made to communications and relations between the college and the business community at-large.

Education and collaboration between the educational community of UHMC and local businesses, both public and private, were at the heart of the entire Dream Green Forum venture.

Cooney spoke again at lunch, saying, "If you can show people that their choices make a difference, they will choose the choice that makes the better difference."



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