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Legislators Pass Measures To Diversify Economy

Direct from Donnovan… Sen. Donnovan Dela Cruz

We began this session committed to the following, and I am proud to say that positive gains were made for our state and community, especially for rural Oahu. We focused on:

  • Helping our local agricultural industry;
  • Diversifying our economy and reversing the brain drain; and
  • Addressing the challenges of providing affordable and workforce housing.

I am happy to see the Whitmore Project moving along, enhanced by the acquisition of agricultural land and existing facilities by the state that will provide the necessary facilities for farmers.

In December the state closed on the transaction of purchasing 1,700 acres of quality farmland known as the Galbraith Estate, of which approximately 1,200 acres were transferred to the Agribusiness Development Corp., an agency attached to the Department of Agriculture. In our efforts to ensure that farmers have long-term leases and keep the lands in agriculture in perpetuity, there was further progress in approving funding to purchase and acquire the following:

  • 20,000 acres of farmland that has been listed for sale from Dole Food Company; • 257 acres of farmland and a warehouse for food safety, packing and processing facilities;
  • Plan and design for an irrigation system to provide water to farmers on lands leased to them by the Agribusiness Development Corp.

These lands and facilities will be at the center of an agricultural hub where farmers can package, process and store their products.

The future belongs to our younger generations, and we must ensure that jobs and housing are available. Mindful of these challenges, we adopted the following initiatives to support and foster the growth of businesses which help in diversifying our economy and reversing the brain drain:

  • Tax Credits for research and development, and the film and media industry. These credits will generate jobs in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
  • Funded $6 million to assist our local start-up com- panies to get off the ground and expand. This investment program will spur public- private partnerships to help plug the gaps in our local business sector.

Aware that affordable and workforce housing remains a challenge, we passed the following legislation:

  • Working to improve the process, we added program options to alleviate the down- payment process and other cost assistance features to the Hula Mae Single Family Mortgage Loan Program.

Another significant program established this legislative session was the Green Infrastructure Program. This establishes a loan-financing program to assist residents with costs when purchasing and installing alternative energy systems.

Lastly, we need to engage in more public-private partnerships within our communities. Such partnerships are vital toward assisting our local businesses and addressing our housing short- ages. Through my committee, we will continue to work to accomplish this.

Contact state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz at 586- 6090, or email him at sendelacruz@capitol.hawaii. gov.