APEC means business for Isles
The 2011 meetings in Honolulu of APEC — the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum — offer greater opportunities and challenges than most people realize.
First, smooth logistics for the APEC meetings would open the way for Hawai'i to host major intergovernmental conferences and meetings. Getting the logistics right will, however, be far more complex than anything Hawai'i has ever done.
President Obama and the other presidents, prime ministers and senior APEC leaders will be in Honolulu to work. They will hold non-stop official and side meetings — everything from plenary sessions and working dinners to press events and carefully-scripted elevator encounters. Each of the 21 APEC leaders will require security like what Hawai'i has seen the past week for President Obama. Each of the scores of separate events will require to-the-second coordination of elevator lockdowns and motorcade departures. APEC leaders, ministers, senior business executives in Hawai'i for the APEC CEO Summit, and journalists will require instantaneous, wireless, global communication from where they meet, work, play, eat and sleep. Staff members and security details will be stressed and demanding: they know that every second of a leader's time is precious and each thinks his principal is the most important person in the world.
Hawai'i has proved itself as a premier tourist destination. The November 2011 APEC meetings offer Hawai'i the chance to establish itself as a place to do serious work.
Second, the APEC meetings present individual Hawai'i businesses with the possibility of broader exposure than they could have dreamed of in their wildest imaginations. Attendees at the APEC CEO Summit will include senior executives of some of the world's largest and most important companies. U.S. businesses actively involved with APEC include General Electric, Procter & Gamble, JP Morgan Chase, General Motors, IBM, Microsoft, FedEx, Boeing, Wal-Mart, Time-Warner, and more. Foreign companies like Toshiba, Mitsui, Jardine Matheson, PCCW, MiTAC, and others of similar stature will likely participate. During the APEC meetings, the evening news in capitals across the Asia-Pacific region and around the world will open each night with a scene shot in Hawai'i.
To capitalize on this opportunity, individual Hawai'i businesses can begin now to identify products and services they want to showcase in November 2011 and craft strategic plans to do so. For example, what product does your company want to have ready for market in November 2011 and how would you pitch advertising to appeal to the beyond-Hawai'i market? If you seek a partner, will you have done all the preparatory work so that a senior executive could step outside the CEO Summit for 15 minutes to ink a deal with your company? If you want to pitch senior government officials who will accompany ministers of trade, transportation, energy or tourism, will you have laid the necessary groundwork?
Additional, specific opportunities for companies will emerge as the state, federal government and APEC members develop detailed logistical and substantive plans.
Third, the APEC meetings will offer Hawai'i as a state the chance to highlight opportunities here. The key will be to identify specifically what Hawai'i can offer uniquely and develop a strategic plan to show it.
Take, for example, alternative energy. Japan is ahead of the United States in solar energy. China is ahead on the commercial use of wind energy. But there are few places in the world where a government or company official could explore within one day solar, wind, geothermal, ocean tech, biomass, and fossil fuel energy options.
In considering how to show what Hawai'i has, planners will be wise to remember two things. First, if the logistics are not smooth — including sufficient Internet bandwidth, ubiquitous BlackBerry connectivity, seamless airport transfers, etc. — nothing else Hawai'i does will matter much. All of that is possible in major APEC cities. If the logistics go poorly in Hawai'i, that is what decisionmakers will remember. Second, the people in Hawai'i for APEC will be focused on APEC, not Hawai'i. Thus, Hawai'i will need to devise a targeted campaign that can capture people's attention on the fly or in a very quick, targeted way. Once the main substantive themes for the APEC Leaders Meeting, ministerial meetings and CEO Summit become clear, Hawai'i may also find ways to link its strengths to those themes.
As Hawai'i prepares for APEC 2011, the state and individual businesses can seize this as an opportunity to ensure that information technology, infrastructure and human capital will meet the demands of doing business in the 21st century. Hawai'i can decide what role it wants to play in the Asia-Pacific region and showcase its strengths when decision-makers and opinion-makers gather in Honolulu in November 2011.