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DBEDT E-newsletter - May 2024

DBEDT E-newsletter - May 2024


In May, we celebrate Haʻaheo, Pride in Public Service Month, as proclaimed by Governor Josh Green, underscoring the invaluable contributions of our dedicated staff in supporting economic growth and diversity throughout our islands. This newsletter issue illustrates the important work of our public service employees in advancing Hawai‘i’s economy.

Our newly developed infrastructure map is a cornerstone of our strategic planning, highlighting our focus on technology and innovation, manufacturing and product development, and creative media and film. By adopting a cluster approach, we are fostering regional economic growth to ensure our efforts yield the greatest benefits for our communities.

At the end of this Legislative Session, several critical bills were transmitted to the Governor. These bills aim to expand affordable housing, advocate for small businesses, and enhance digital equity. These legislative milestones are crucial in supporting our economic vision for Hawai‘i.

This issue also features highlights on Maui economic recovery initiatives, the Creative Industries Educator Externship, the recognition of M. Bowers & Co. by the Foreign-Trade Zone No. 9, and success stories from our HTDC accelerator programs. These initiatives reflect our commitment to fostering innovation and economic prosperity across Hawai‘i.

Me ke aloha,
James Kunane Tokioka

Maui Economic Recovery

Photo courtesy Mark Middleton, Maui ERC member and County of Maui Assistance Risk Management Officer

The Maui Economic Recovery Commission (ERC) convened its second in-person meeting on May 14, 2024, at the University of Hawai‘i Maui College in Kahului, Hawai‘i. The Maui ERC, co-chaired by DBEDT Director James Tokioka and the County of Maui Office of Economic Development Director Luana Mahi, is a coalition of vibrant community leaders representing the richness of Maui and Hawai‘i’s diverse tapestry. The vision of the Maui ERC is to keep local people home, steer hope, and rebuild its economy so that local people can return home.

Leading up to May 14, the Maui ERC met every other week in learning groups to listen, exchange insights, and gain an understanding to chart the best course forward for long-term economic recovery. This involved meeting with subject matter experts to begin generating ideas and recommendations.

With nearly 120 participants including community and local philanthropic partners and county, state, and federal representatives, the group presented more than 30 projects generated from the following learning groups: Housing, Workforce Development, Community Interest, Healing, Lele Ahupua‘a (modern day ahupua‘a approach), and Wai. Maui ERC members regrouped into seven combined projects and identified 13 additional ones to move forward through the ERC project process that includes support from key federal agencies. Project teams include members from the community, different levels and branches of government, and local funders.

Key presenters included Governor Josh Green, Mayor Richard Bissen, and Maui County Deputy Managing Director Keanu Lau Hee. From the federal government, the group heard from Alejandra Castillo, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, and the U.S. Economic Development Administration team. Leads from other state recovery support functions were invited to foster collaboration and identify potential projects and priorities to submit for funding in the coming months.

The next steps for the Maui ERC include finalizing project ideas, collaborating with federal partners, and reconvening on August 26. This final in-person meeting of the Maui ERC will focus on identifying the key elements for Maui’s economic recovery framework, which is projected to be finalized in the fall of 2024.


Legislative Update

As the legislative session has concluded, we would like to spotlight some of the bills that have been transmitted to the Governor:

Expand Affordable Housing

HB1760 HD1 SD1 CD1 (Relating to State Finances) – Authorizes the Hawai‘i Housing Finance and Development Corporation to secure a line of credit or other instrument of indebtedness for the bond volume cap recycling program.

Advocate for Hawai‘i’s Entrepreneurs

HB2354 HD1 SD2 CD1 (Relating to the Small Business Regulatory Review Board) – Clarifies that the Small Business Regulatory Review Board has the authority to review legislation affecting small businesses in response to requests from small business owners.

Enhance Digital Equity

HB2359 HD2 SD1 CD1 (Relating to the Hawai‘i Broadband and Digital Equity Office) – Establishes the Digital Equity Grant Program to award grants to applicants to deploy digital equity projects to covered populations in the State.

Celebrating May as Haʻaheo, Pride in Public Service Month

Governor Josh Green proclaimed May as Haʻaheo, Pride in Public Service Month in Hawaiʻi, a time to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the state’s public employees.

Whether working on economic development initiatives, managing administrative duties, supporting local enterprises, or any other vital role, the work of our staff at DBEDT supports local businesses and fosters economic growth, driving Hawai‘i’s success.

Mahalo to all the staff for their unwavering commitment and dedicated public service.

Creative Industries Educator Externship Empowers Hawai‘i Teachers

Hawai‘i teachers gathered on May 2, 2024, for a free Creative Industries Educator Externship at the Entrepreneurs Sandbox in Honolulu. Hosted by the Creative Industries Division (CID), in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce Hawai‘i, University of Hawai‘i Community Colleges, and the Good Jobs Hawai‘i coalition, the event offered insights into digital design, fashion design, and media career pathways.

The externship allowed educators to earn ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) credit, enhance their creative skills, and connect curriculum with career opportunities. The event underscored the importance of equipping teachers with industry knowledge to better prepare students for creative careers.

Throughout the day, attendees participated in technical skill rotations on fashion design, 3D modeling, and video pre-production. Networking sessions and panels featured professionals from various creative fields. The event highlighted CID’s workforce initiatives and strategies to bridge skill gaps, ensuring students’ readiness for future careers.

The event resulted from the Creative Industries Sector Partnership’s Career Awareness initiative, a workforce development collaboration between employers and educators. Future plans include additional externships and forums to connect industry employers and thought leaders. For more information, visit,, and


Hawai‘i Foreign-Trade Zone Honors Customs Broker M. Bowers & Co. with Annual Excellence Award

The Foreign-Trade Zone No. 9 (FTZ9) division recently recognized M. Bowers & Co., Inc. with its annual excellence award. This accolade celebrates businesses and organizations that are significantly contributing to Hawai‘i's international trade industry.

Founded 35 years ago, M. Bowers & Co. is a local licensed U.S. Customs brokerage firm. The company aids importers in navigating U.S. Customs and other government agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Food & Drug Administration, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. For over 20 years, President and founder Michael M. Bowers has managed the company’s operations from the FTZ9 Pier 2 facility in Honolulu Harbor.

FTZ9 Administrator David Sikkink praised M. Bowers & Co. for their integral role in the local trade community, highlighting their essential custom processing services that ensure compliance with U.S. import regulations.

HTDC Accelerator Success Stories

The Hawai'i Technology Development Corporation (HTDC) financially supports local accelerators by providing funding to enable them to support startup companies with seed capital, business technical assistance, mentoring, planning, workspaces, and networking opportunities.

For FY23, various accelerator programs resulted in:

  • 1,350 jobs produced by cohorts
  • $218 million in revenue
  • 350+ companies supported

Watch a collection of local business success stories. For more information on HTDC, visit their website at

HTDC’s Accelerator Success Stories

For more on DBEDT and its divisions and attached agencies, please visit

Below are links to newsletters from DBEDT’s attached agencies and related programs:
Hawai‘i Community Development Authority – Community Connection Newsletter
Hawai‘i State Energy Office – The Current Newsletter
Hawai‘i Technology Development Corporation – May 2024
Hawai‘i Tourism Authority – E-Bulletin
New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District – Community Newsletter

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