Kona-Kohala Chamber Annual Luncheon 2022
Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce Gathers to Hear from Governor Ige,
Install New Board, Present Pualu Awards, Reboot Business Expo
KAILUA-KONA – The chief executive for the State of Hawaiʻi, Governor David Ige, joined the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce (KKCC) for its annual meeting on Friday, June 24, 2022. The event marked the organization’s first in-person membership luncheon in three years due to COVID.
Wendy Laros, KKCC president and CEO, welcomed 265 attendees at the Fairmont Orchid, Hawaiʻi and explained the purpose of the event – to gather the chamber membership, provide an update on the activities of the past year and install 2022-2023 KKCC Board of Directors. With enthusiasm, she stated, “Being together again is so powerful!”
The meeting was sponsored by ALTRES, Goodfellow Bros., Hawai‘i Community Federal Credit Union, Hawai‘i Water Service, KTA Superstores and Waikoloa Plaza. The program included a keynote address by Gov. Ige, installation of officers and directors, presentation of the chamber’s Pualu Awards and the return of the Business Expo. Hawaiʻi State Senator Dru Kanuha, Hawaiʻi County Mayor Mitch Roth and other state and county officials also attended the event.
Gov. Ige received a standing ovation when he took the podium and started his talk thanking the audience for “caring about our community” during COVID-19 “as it was a time the community was more important than the individual.” The governor, who is in his last year of office, added he was proud Hawai‘i’s COVID response was ranked best in the nation, earning first place in 56 criteria, and added, “We did great things during this COVID pandemic and we will be better for it.”
Ige presented updates on filling the state’s current employment gaps, including in health care, saying the recent legislative session allocated $6.7 million to expand the residency program at the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine and that legislators are looking to increase physican residency and nursing programs on the neighbor islands.
“Regarding education, we’re also working to create teaching cohorts and expand internship opportunities for high school and college students,” he added. “We want to work with the university to graduate people with the skills we need to fill jobs.”
The governor touched on the pivot in the tourism sector to destination management “so our residents better welcome our visitors and we attract the visitor who cares about our community.” He mentioned the airport’s new federal inspection station was finished under budget and is ready to welcome travelers from Japan with new flights starting August 1.
As it was Ige’s last talk to the chamber as governor, he briefly summarized his administration’s efforts for Hawai‘i Island, detailing significant investments during his two terms. He lauded Hawai‘i Island “for being ahead of the curve in achieving renewable energy at 60%.”
After officially calling the annual meeting to order, outgoing Board Chair Mark Leong delivered an annual update emphasizing the marked growth in the chamber’s Aliʻi Circle enhanced member program, a special thanks to the Marketing & Membership Committee, and fundraising success with the annual golf tournament.
With business advocacy, Leong shared the chamber’s three top priorities for 2022: housing, water development and astronomy. Adding that housing and water are new priorities, Leong noted, “Our position is to support housing projects at all inventory levels in West Hawai‘i. This includes the development of infrastructure to support more housing along with an emphasis on improvements in Hawai‘i County’s permitting processes.” Leong pointed out that the chamber’s Permitting Task Force added the housing priority to its objectives.
Regarding water, Leong stated, “Our position is to support new water resource development, maintenance and protection in West Hawaiʻi
.” He detailed that KKCC’s Economic Development Committee is taking the lead on learning more about water issues from the county and experts while the chamber’s Sustainability Committee will be addressing wastewater issues.
Leong reinforced chamber’s long standing commitment to astronomy and shared, “During the 2022 State Legislative session, we consistently voiced our support for the University of Hawai‘i to manage Maunakea.”
Shifting to the board, Leong recognized and thanked two out-going board members for their years of service: Past Board Chair Dale Suezaki of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and Vice Chair of South Kohala Randy Kurohara with Community First, Aloha Grown and Creative Arts Hawaiʻi.
Gov. Ige installed the 2022-2023 Board of Directors and Officers:
Newly installed Board Chair Dennis Boyd addressed the membership by highlighting Leong’s leadership in guiding the board to develop and implement a new strategic plan as the organization successfully navigated through the pandemic. Boyd announced more in-person events are planned with monthly AfterHours events starting in August and the Employment Law Seminar in September. He emphasized the chamber’s robust committee structure and dedicated member engagement. He concluded with a call to action, “Let’s make things happen!”
Board leaders presented the KKCC Pualu Awards to five recipients. These prestigious awards recognize businesses, organizations and individuals that work together for West Hawaiʻi in providing business leadership and community service. According to the Hawaiian Dictionary, pualu means “all together, in unison and cooperative.”
- Board Chair Dennis Boyd - West Hawaiʻi Small Business Development Center
- Immediate Past Chair Mark Leong - Lex Brodie’s Fast Lube and Big Island Express Car Wash
- Vice Chair of Finance Hobbs Lowson - Bank of Hawaiʻi
- North Kona Vice Chair Sharon Sakai - Communications Consultant
- South Kona Vice Chair Pam Latinis - Venture Sotheby’s International Realty
- North Kohala Vice Chair Jonathan Mitchell - Parker Ranch
- Jane Clement - Hawaiʻi County, Mayor’s Office
- Samantha Collins - Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
- Vaughn Cook - Torkildson, Katz, Hetherington, Harris and Knorek – Attorneys at Law
- Mendy Dant - Fair Wind Cruises
- Tane Datta – Adaptations Inc.
- Farrah-Marie Gomes - University of Hawaiʻi, Hilo
- Jen Johansen - Cyanotech
- Clayton McGhan - Kona Community Hospital
- Nancy Sakamoto - Kona Commons
- Doug Simons - UH Institute for Astronomy
- KKCC Pualu Award Winners:
Before and after the luncheon, attendees browsed among 22 booths at the KKCC Business Expo. Participating exhibitors included ALTRES, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Island Lifestyle- Renee Kraft, Big Island Collision Center, Goodfellow Bros., Grand Welcome, Hawai‘i Keiki Museum, Hawai‘i Community College - Pālamanui, Hawai‘i Island United Way, Hawaiian Airlines, Jackʻs Diving Locker, Ke Ola Magazine, Keāhole Center for Sustainablity, Mr. K’s Recycle & Redemption Center, ProService Hawai‘i, Renewable Energy Services, Inc., S&G Labs of Hawai‘i, Sunrun, Torkildson, Katz, Hetherington, Harris & Knorek – Attorneys at Law, Viking Security, Waikoloa Plaza/Meridian Pacific and West Hawai‘i Community Health Center.
About KKCC: The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce exists to provide leadership and advocacy for a successful business environment in West Hawaiʻi. Since 1968, this organization has worked to enhance the quality of life for the community through a strong, sustainable economy on Hawaiʻi Island. For more information, go to www.kona-kohala.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 808-329-1758.
- Keāhole Center for Sustainability: Water Refill Stations – Business Innovation
- Center for Maunakea Stewardship: Native Plant Restoration – Community Education
- Hawai‘i Community College-Pālamanui: Campus Preserve – Culture and Heritage
- Cindi Punihaole, Kahalu‘u Bay Education Center – Environmental Awareness
- Jacqui Hoover: KKCC Government Affairs Committee – Chamber Member of the Year