Reshaping our economy and the careers aheadPosted on Dec 30, 2021 in Capitol Connection, Featured, Main
Reimagining tourism for local communities and visitors – In the face of new COVID-19 variants like Omicron, Hawai‘i’s Safe Travels program remains more important than ever. Since the pre-travel testing program launched in October 2020, more than 8.3 million travelers have used the platform. It’s part of a multilayered strategy to protect the health of residents and visitors alike. As more local restaurants and other venues began checking customers’ vaccination status, the state also launched a new SMART Health Card to make it easier to present proof of vaccination. The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority is focusing on “regenerative tourism” to improve the visitor experience while supporting the quality of life for residents. HTA’s 2021 – 2023 Destination Management Action Plans identify “hotspots” on each island and ways to manage visitor numbers to protect natural and cultural resources. “We need to educate our visitors and make them part of the solution,” said HTA CEO John DeFries.
Helping people find jobs and businesses pivot – As the pandemic upended lives, it also opened up often unexpected paths to new career and business opportunities. Thanks to CARES funds, the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) and community partners found creative ways to connect people to jobs and help businesses revamp to survive. Two non-profits — Kupu and the Economic Development Alliance of Hawaii — gave workers a chance to transition to new careers and provided companies with workers. As a result, 346 individuals were placed in conservation, land management and agriculture jobs, with 151 organizations assisted by Kupu. EDAH placed 433 people in emerging, non-tourism-related jobs, assisting 134 companies.
The PIVOT grant program offered up to $10,000 in funds to reimburse businesses that had to change their operations. “In recent months, businesses have had to show creativity and grit just to survive,” said the governor. The Hawai‘i fishing industry, hit hard by the tourism decline at hotels and restaurants, also received economic support. Also available to job seekers is a new website, invest.hawaii.gov/remote/, that provides residents with direct links to the Hawai‘i Remote Work Project and the American Job Center. Another is the new Kupu ‘Āina Corps — a permanent version of the earlier successful state pilot project that provided displaced workers with “green jobs.” DBEDT’s “Buy Hawai‘i, Give Aloha” at the buy.hawaii.gov website continues to showcase authentic, made-in-Hawai‘i products as a one-stop place for local small businesses to market their goods.
A helping hand for farmers, ranchers and growers – In 2021, the state Department of Agriculture focused on providing funds to keep food producers in business when they lost income from restaurants and hotels. This included $450,495 in emergency relief to 197 farmers and agricultural organizations and COVID Emergency Loans to 21 farmers and ranchers totaling $946,300. The governor also signed legislation to benefit both growers and consumers, including a farm-to-school goal of using at least 30% local products by 2030 and benchmarks for state departments to purchase local agricultural and food products. And as a sign of increasing progress in local food production, the Waialua Fresh egg farm, a cage-free, solar-powered sustainable facility, has opened, operating on its own power grid.