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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, July 29, 2006

Economic panel sees 'significant progress'

By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer

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The Economic Momentum Commissionís Web site:

www.emc-hawaii.com

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The 30-member Economic Momentum Commission headed by Don Horner, president and chief executive of First Hawaiian Bank, reported progress yesterday in efforts to keep the state's economy humming.

Horner pointed to this year's passage of Act 180 by the state Legislature as a positive step. The act creates the Hawai'i Housing Finance and Development Corporation, a state agency charged with advocating for affordable and workforce housing.

Among the other signs of progress are:

  • The move by the Hawaii Community Development Authority to adopt a plan to build affordable homes in Kalaeloa.

  • $65 million committed by the Legislature to address the issues facing the homeless.

  • An increase in tax credits for renewable-energy projects.

  • Tax relief of about $50 million a year.

    "I feel strongly that significant progress has been made," Horner said. "I feel equally strong that significant work needs to be done."

    Hawai'i's economy has been growing for nearly a decade. The state has led the nation in low unemployment for most of the past two years.

    But most economists agree the current business cycle has peaked and that slower growth lay ahead.

    The Economic Momentum Commission was formed last summer to consider ways to stave off Hawai'i's next economic downturn.

    The panel of private sector and government leaders issued its first report in December and wants to remain intact at least six more months. The December report included about 30 proposals aimed at addressing threats to economic development in areas ranging from agriculture and housing to host culture and education.

    While some progress has occurred on some proposals, many of the commission's recommendations remain unimplemented. The group has agreed to continue in small groups to push for change prior to at least one more full meeting in November, Horner said.

    Among the issues identified by the commission was the need to: develop affordable housing, house the homeless, close and consolidate public schools, and better prepare people for the workplace.

    "We certainly took on the most challenging issues," Horner said. "You don't solve these in six months.

    "It's a process. Many of these issues have multiple, multi-faceted solutions."

    Reach Sean Hao at shao@honoluluadvertiser.com.