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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 14, 2010

APEC preparation will take coordination

Opportunity is knocking.

Hawai'i will have a coveted spot on the world stage when the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum convenes in Honolulu in 2011. If the importance of this event wasn't already crystal-clear, the remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday certainly hammered home the point. Clinton, on a brief stop during an Asian tour, told an audience at the East-West Center that the Islands' geographic location as a hub of the Pacific basin is a key asset to showcase during APEC. This is indisputably true.

A conference of such global importance, drawing heads of state and leaders from regional nations, will shine a spotlight on Hawai'i as a cultural and economic bridge as well.

But nothing would be worse than to take the spotlight before we're ready. Hawai'i simply must be prepared. It's a job that demands comprehensive planning and coordination.

Disparate efforts are being made to gear up in specific areas city government is honing its security capability and the state is pressing forward with needed improvements at the Honolulu International Airport. All essential elements of what's needed.

But there also needs to be a single entity a coalition of stakeholders, both public and private working to ensure that no critical details are overlooked. For instance, organizations such as the East-West Center, which can speak to international protocols, must work with tourism and business leaders, who will want to capitalize on this crucial infusion in the state's economy.

State officials say more direction from the U.S. State Department is expected by the end of the month that will help planners on this end see that logistics are finely tuned. Will transportation and accommodations be prepared to handle multiple large entourages as they arrive, in a place not accustomed to hosting more than one or two at a time? Will a robust broadband capability enable the seamless communications that's so essential?

Can Hawai'i take full advantage of the opportunity to show off a bit not only the natural beauty that has been its crown jewel, but also its emerging role as a fulcrum of renewable energy development and a serious place to do business?

It's exciting to have dignitaries of the highest level recognize Hawai'i's growing potential. Clinton said APEC will put the Islands on display as a "model for the imagination, what could be in the 21st century" for Asia-Pacific countries. That's an unprecedented opening for this state. And we must be able to show in no uncertain terms that we live up to that billing.