The Garden Island
BY Dennis Fujimoto
Earlier this month, the state Senate’s Ways and Means Committee visited several sites on Kaua‘i, identifying issues, resource needs and potential solutions to address regional and statewide economic development, develop curriculum and career technical education pathways for a local workforce, analyze efficient space utilization of State facilities, and leverage critical private partnerships to decrease State resource dependence and liability.
“I want to thank Chair Dela Cruz and members of the Ways and Means Committee for coming to Kaua‘i to visit with the various government agencies and community partners that are doing great work here on the Garden Isle,” Senate President Ronald Kouchi (District 8) said.
While on Kaua‘i, the committee convened briefings at the following sites:
- Kaua‘i Adolescent Treatment Center for Healing
- Kaua‘i Complex Area Alternative Learning Program is preparing to relocate after waiting for many months to move into the Kaua‘i Adolescent Treatment Center for Healing, as the County of Kaua‘i prepares to release the facility to Grove Farm Company.
Kaua‘i State Office Building & Annex
Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has agreed to abide to a 2019 agreement to clear out unoccupied office spaces, creating access for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to move into the office spaces.
Department of Accounting and General Services is working with the University of Hawai’i Community Design Center to develop a regional site plan and construction for a new facility to completely rid Kaua‘i of the 16,000 square footage of leased spaces, with potential savings of $540,000.
Alternative Learning Centers at Kaua‘i High School, Kapa’a High School and Waimea High School
Kaua‘i Department of Education High Schools have reported tremendous student success with its new Alternative Learning Centers. Data provided by the schools indicated that the students who were enrolled at the ALC’s in school year 20-21, 63% of whom are Native Hawaiian, have experienced academic gains and the average attendance rates increased by 11%.
Dramatic improvements in behavior are being realized. At Kapa’a High School, ALC students decreasing from 307 Chapter 19 (student misconduct) offenses to zero, Kaua‘i High School ALC students decreasing from 391 offenses to zero and Waimea High School ALC students decreasing from 292 offenses to 3.
With the closure of Beck’s Hybrid, a corn seed research and development company in Kekaha, the DOE shared a plan to assume Beck’s lease with the Agribusiness Development Corporation to launch agriculture and value-added product production pathways into select Kaua‘i public schools.
Coupled with the agriculture and entrepreneurship courses, the vacated Beck’s Hybrid site will help to fast track the re-opening of the facility for students to engage in agricultural and value-add production, processing, and distribution and activating surrounding lands for farming.
Green Energy Team LLC and the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative
As Hawai’i strives to generate 100% clean energy by 2045, Kaua‘i energy producers Green Energy Team LLC, and the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative provided an impressive overview of their clean energy regional work.
The two clean energy producers shared with WAM members and stakeholders from HECO, HEI, State Energy Office, PUC and IBEW 1260, DOE and Kaua‘i Community College how Green Energy Team’s Biomass facility contributes 11% of the island of Kaua‘i’s entire energy portfolio and over 16% of the county’s renewable energy portfolio.
KIUC reported that it had grown its renewable energy production from just 9% of its overall consumption in 2009 to 67% as of 2020. The KIUC projects will be able to achieve 90% renewable energy by 2025, with a portfolio that consists of solar, hydro, and biomass.
The WAM committee assembled the Kaua‘i energy companies and statewide energy stakeholders to discuss a statewide plan and timeline to meeting Hawai’i’s 2045 goal. WAM members called for a comprehensive statewide energy plan that will evaluate regional energy assets and needs, integrate existing and emerging technologies, collaboration with K-12 and post-high institutions to develop a green workforce, coordinated retraining efforts with the union to ensure continuity of employment as energy workforce requirements shift and lastly, align legislation and resources to the agreed-upon strategies and timeline.
Pacific Missile Range Facility
The Hawai’i Air National Guard and Koa Lani, a PMRF civilian contracting company, expressed its desire and willingness to work with the local Kaua‘i middle and high schools and Kaua‘i Community College to develop a pipeline of qualified workers. Between the two, the companies employ over 700 workers on the military base.
The groups shared the difficulty in hiring local residents due to most applicant’s lack of specialized skills required for Department of Defense work. High demand and hard-to-fill job vacancies remain and include electrical engineering, cybersecurity and radio antenna repair and maintenance positions. With the continuous need for skilled IT-related workers on island, we have an incredible opportunity to fill them with homegrown talent from Kaua‘i.
“The Pacific Missile Range Center can serve as a community resource for students on Kaua‘i who are looking to explore pathways in STEM and other related fields,” noted Senate Vice President Michelle Kidani (District 18), and chair of the Senate Committee on Education. “By working together with the DOE and Kaua‘i Community College, these potential partnerships will allow students to attain the necessary certifications and educational degrees needed to become job ready and have the opportunity to live, learn, work and thrive in their home communities.”