`AINA KOA PONO asked the state Legislature yesterday to support a 15 percent tax credit for building a refinery here in Pahala. Chris Eldridge, who also owns American Mattress stores around the state, is an `Aina Koa Pono partner. His testimony for yesterday’s hearing describes former sugar lands, now largely used by the cattle industry between Pahala and Na`alehu, as “fallow,” and says that using land for a biofuels farm and factory would help fend off a rise in fuel prices statewide. “Building agriculturally based biofuel refineries in Hawai`i has the potential to reinvigorate Hawai`i’s struggling agriculture industry while also helping to meet the renewable energy goals of Hawai`i’s Clean Energy Initiative,” said Eldridge.
THE NUMBER OF JOBS projected for the proposed biofuels refinery and farm here in Ka`u was increased in the testimony that asks for the 15 percent tax credit. Eldridge said that in addition to 300 construction jobs over two years to build the refinery in Pahala, `Aina Koa Pono now projects 150 to 200 jobs created for the 20 to 30 years that the biofuel refinery would be in operation.
HE ALSO SUGGESTED that the tax break bill be amended to provide tax credits within 60 days after the refinery becomes operational. “We cannot emphasize enough the need for these incentives to attract private capital to invest in these projects for Hawai`i.
The public will have a final opportunity in late October and November to provide input into the 2009 County of Hawaii Agricultural Development Plan, being prepared for the Department of Research and Development by Agricon Hawaii LLC and The Kohala Center.
The Kohala Center is conducting islandwide listening sessions prior to finalizing the plan, which is intended to guide the revitalization of agriculture as a basis for the island’s economic development by focusing on measures designed to increase the production of food for local consumption and support the growth of export products.
The preliminary draft of the plan will be available for review by Oct. 10 at kohalacenter.org/agplan.html.
After the fall round of public sessions, The Kohala Center will incorporate public input and present the final draft to the county Department of Research and Development in early December.
In addition to attending a listening session, the public can provide suggestions and comments to Guy Kaulukukui, director of The Kohala Center’s Food Self-Reliance Program, at email@example.com or 887-6411.
The sessions are 6-8 p.m. at the following dates and locations: