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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 29, 2006

Study backs 'incredible' rise in artisans, crafters

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

Maile Meyer, far left, wearing glasses, has a host of helpers at her shop at Ward Warehouse. Meyer, a partner in Native Books/Na Mea Hawai'i, has noticed an increase lately in merchandise made by Hawaiian-owned businesses, and her experience is supported by a new U.S. Census Bureau report.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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CENSUS BUREAU REPORT FINDINGS

Other highlights from the Survey of Business Owners: Native Hawaiian- and Other Pacific Islander-Owned Firms: 2002, a U.S. Census Bureau report:

  • More than half of the companies listed under the businesses owned by Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders characterized themselves as Native Hawaiians.

  • A total of 727 Native Hawaiian- and other Pacific Islander-owned companies reported receipts of $1 million or more. They made up 2.5 percent of the total number of Native Hawaiian- and other Pacific Islander-owned companies but generated 66.8 percent of their total receipts.

  • Hawai'i and California accounted for 62.3 percent of all revenue generated by companies owned by Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.

  • Hawai'i was home to the highest number of businesses owned by Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders with 8,359, or 28.9 percent, followed by California, New York, Florida and Texas.

  • Businesses owned by Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders employed 29,300 workers and generated $4.3 billion of all revenues.

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    Maile Meyer, a partner in Native Books/Na Mea Hawai'i, sees the inroads Hawaiians are making in the business world. "I love it when artists tell me, 'I used to do this at nights, and now I do it on the weekends, and I'm thinking about quitting my job,' " she says.

    REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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    Maile Meyer, a partner in a Hawaiian-owned book shop, said she has noticed a spike in merchandise made by businesses owned by Hawaiians.

    "It's incredible, the rise in the number of artisans, crafters and producers who have come online in the last five years," said Meyer, of Native Books/Na Mea Hawai'i.

    Meyer's experience is reflected in newly released statistics that show the ranks of Hawaiian- and Pacific Islander-owned businesses are increasing much more quickly than the national average.

    The numbers come from the Survey of Business Owners: Native Hawaiian- and Other Pacific Islander-Owned Firms: 2002, a U.S. Census Bureau report released yesterday.

    The new data give a detailed picture of the types of businesses owned by Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and indicates their financial health. It further details information released last year that showed the rate of growth of businesses owned by Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders increased from 1997 to 2002 by 49.4 percent, more than three times faster than the national average.

    IN THE MAINSTREAM

    The study was based on a survey of 2.5 million business owners nationwide in 2002.

    George E. Newton, 86, the longtime owner of medical supply firm CR Newton Co. on South Beretania Street, said he is pleased to see fellow Hawaiians join his ranks.

    Newton, a winner of the O'o Award given to Hawaiian business owners by the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce, said increasing the ranks helps perpetuate the Hawaiian race and its culture.

    And that's important to Newton. "We were born and raised in the Islands," he said.

    Frank Brandt, chairman of PBR Hawaii, a land planning and landscape architecture firm, echoed Newton's thoughts about the importance of Hawaiian-owned businesses.

    "As a host culture, we should be involved in the mainstream," Brandt said. "We need more Native Hawaiians and part Hawaiians in the business world."

    Brandt, a founding member more than two decades ago of the Hawaiian Businessmen's Association the predecessor to the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce said there is now a strong support system to help foster and nurture newer Hawaiian business owners.

    Coupled with more educational opportunities, "more and more Hawaiians are succeeding very well."

    At a news conference held in Honolulu by the Census Bureau, Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce President Warren Ah Sing expressed optimism at the numbers and what could be in store in the future.

    "I can't wait for the next five-year study," he said. "Since 2002, there has been far more interest, lots more new startups and far more successes in Native Hawaiian entrepreneurship."

    REVENUES NOT SO GREAT

    Of 28,948 Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander-owned businesses listed in the study, healthcare and retail companies made up the largest shares. Administrative services, professional services and construction companies also were high on the list. Professional services include companies offering legal advice and representation, accounting, engineering and computer services.

    While the number of businesses is growing rapidly, revenues have not been as robust.

    The 28,948 Native Hawaiian- and other Pacific Islander-owned businesses across the United States generated about $4.3 billion in revenues in 2002, up 3.4 percent from 1997. That pales in comparison with the rest of the nation, which saw business receipts rise by 22 percent.

    Valerie Strang, a survey statistician for the Economic Census Branch of the Census Bureau, said the discrepancy should be put into context. She noted that the overall receipts reflect all companies, including publicly traded companies, which tend to be larger. Publicly traded companies, because they are owned by a number of parties of multiple ethnicities, are not part of the Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander business survey.

    Beyond that, "my theory is there are a lot of businesses where people are just coming into business that are just getting off the ground and haven't had a chance to grow yet," Strang said.

    Strang said sole proprietors comprised 87 percent of the businesses owned by Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, and one-employee businesses typically generate significantly less revenue than multiple-employee businesses.

    Meyer said Strang's hypothesis makes sense, judging by the experience of Native Books/Na Mea.

    "It's a natural progression; people have to start somewhere," she said. "I love it when artists tell me, 'I used to do this at nights, and now I do it on the weekends, and I'm thinking about quitting my job.' "

    For purposes of the survey, Hawaiian- and other Pacific Islander businesses are defined as those firms in which Hawaiians, Samoans, Guamanians, Chamorrans and other Pacific Islanders own 51 percent or more of the stock, equity or interest.

    Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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