Henk Rogers Headlines Annual KKCC Membership Luncheon, Board Chair DeVries Announces New Future Focus Initiative
By Fern Gavelek
NETWORKING—Shaping the future while being mindful of the past was the theme of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce’s annual Membership and Installation Luncheon Friday, June 29 at Four Seasons Resort Hualālai.
Attended by 240, the event offered a pre- and post-event Business Expo and keynote by visionary Henk Rogers of Blue Planet Foundation. Also on tap was recognition of Hawai‘i Island SBA Award winners, presentation of KKCC’s annual Pūalu Awards, installation of the 2018-19 board of directors and a forward-thinking message by Chamber Board Chair Porter DeVries.
In commemoration of KKCC’s 50th anniversary year, State Representative Nicole Lowen presented the Chamber with a certificate of appreciation on behalf of the State House. Hawai‘i County Managing Director Wil Okabe, who was standing in for Mayor Harry Kim, also read a statement congratulating KKCC on “50 years of promoting our island economy.”
Keynote by Henk Rogers
Henk Rogers introduced himself by sharing where he’s been and why he has goals that involve ending the use of carbon-based fuel, developing alternative energy storage and linking Hawai‘i to colonization of the moon.
Rogers, a native of Holland who studied computer science at the University of Hawai‘i, made his fortune as a video game designer and distributor. After he survived a health scare, he told himself, “I have already made enough money. Now what do I need to do….what will upset me that I didn’t do?”
After reading in the paper about ocean acidification and how it is wreaking havoc on corals and the planet’s food chain, he decided it was time to stop this harmful process, which is caused by the ocean absorbing excess CO2 from the atmosphere. The result was the founding of the Blue Planet Foundation to end the use of carbon-based fuel.
“We’ve been at it 10 years now and it used to be like swimming uphill,” he admitted. “Now we’re going downhill as our governor and legislature are on the same page.” Rogers was referring to Hawai‘i’s state mandate to have 100% renewable power by 2045. “And we’re helping other states with this now too,” he continued.
Realizing that storage is an issue with alternative energy, Rogers added, “We disconnected and found out how much it costs to go off the grid and it’s not that bad. Blue Planet Energy is a spinoff from this. We did research and found lithium iron phosphate batteries; they are what we use.”
In addition to conservation-themed goals, Rogers’ says his other “mission” is to advocate for space exploration and he serves as chair of the Pacific International Space Center for Explorations Systems (PISCES) and founder of the International MoonBase Alliance. He feels a permanent settlement on the moon is “going to happen” and Hawai‘i, with geology and terrain similar to the moon, is a good place to build a moon base prototype. The project will involve robotics, artificial intelligence and materials. “We can’t just live in the past, we have to plan for the future of our children.”
A self-proclaimed “big fan” of the proposed Thirty-Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea, Rogers warned, “If we don’t get TMT…Everybody who wants to do anything with technology in Hawai‘i backs off…and there will be no jobs for keiki.”
Rogers stressed the need to make Hawai‘i a better place for doing business while referencing recent rankings putting the state at the bottom. “That has to change,” he emphasized, “we can’t spend the rest of time being number 50.”
New Future Focus Initiative
After summarizing the Chamber’s successes and challenges over the last 50 years, KKCC Board Chair Porter DeVries asked the crowd “What does the next 50 years look like?”
To forge a path for the future, DeVries announced KKCC is creating a two-year project, the Future Focus Initiative July 2018-June 2020.
DeVries says the Chamber will host a summit in 2019 to bring together business leaders and thinkers “to come up with a road map” for West Hawai‘i’s economic climate. Findings from the conference will be published in a comprehensive report that can be used by local businesses and entrepreneurs “as a playbook.”
“This effort will guide business owners in updating their business plans,” suggested DeVries.
A Young Professional Leadership Council will be formed to do a study and plan the summit, collect data and present the outcomes. A steering committee will guide the council in its efforts. More details about the process will be shared at KKCCʻs 50th Anniversary Gala October 27 at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.
SBA Award Winners
Jane Sawyer, district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)-Hawai‘i, recognized the 2018 Hawai‘i Island SBA Award Winners. They are Paul Streiter and Angela Rey of Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill as Small Business Person of the Year, Dawn K.K. Kanealii-Kleinfelder of Liko Lehua as Family-Owned Business of the Year and Denise Laitinen of DLC Hawaii Media as Small Business Advocate for Media & Journalism.
Find full coverage on all six winners in the story: KKCC taps six for annual Pūalu Awards.
- BUSINESS INNOVATION WINNER— Greenwell Farms
- COMMUNITY EDUCATION WINNER—Thirty Meter Telescope
- CULTURE & HERITAGE WINNER—Dr. Momi Naughton
- ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS WINNER—PATH
- VISITOR INDUSTRY MARKETING WINNER—VASH
- CHAMBER MEMBER OF THE YEAR—Elizabeth Elkjer of Sustainable Island Products