LIHU‘E — Officials will focus on economic diversification to improve the county’s resilience as it recovers from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A plan released this week by Kaua‘i’s Office of Economic Development (OED), in partnership with the Kaua‘i Economic Development Board (KEDB) laid out the regional economic strategies for the next half-decade.
The Kaua‘i Comprehensive Economic Development Strategic Plan (CEDS) plan, which used the theme “Kupa‘a Kaua‘i –Kaua‘i Forward!” was developed alongside a range of community leaders from business, government, education, nonprofits, technology, and agriculture over the course of seven months and 25 meetings.
“In the spirit of ‘Kupa‘a Kaua‘i – Kaua‘i Forward!,’ this document intends to serve as a tool for better communication and collaboration toward the work of building a more thriving, equitable and sustainable regional economy which is something we all want,” said OED Director Nalani Brun. “Economic diversification clearly takes a village, and I want to thank our community members for helping to make that happen for all of us.”
The plan builds on ideas discussed in the 2016 CEDS plan—focusing on growing six primary industries to create an economy less reliant on tourism.
“Kaua‘i’s heavy reliance on the visitor industry — from the number of jobs supported by visitor spending to the percentage of real property revenue generated from resort uses — is considered a threat to resilience,” the plan reads.
This harmful effect of this reliance was seen in 2020 when Gross Domestic Product dropped 17% as tourism was limited following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the CEDS plan.
The industries identified for potential growth include food and agriculture, sustainable technologies and practices, science and technology, health and wellness, sports and recreation, and arts and culture.
The CEDS also identifies four broad goals for the next five years which include:
• Developing industry clusters to diversify the economy
• Building a skilled workforce
• Increasing adaptability and resilience in the face of natural disaster and climate change
• Improving the quality of life for residents
It discusses a variety of strategies to achieve these goals, including improving affordable housing, providing better broadband access, and exploring the possibility of a Kaua‘i Innovation Center.
“This plan will act as the roadmap and eventual framework for assessing and achieving progress toward the economic goals that the county’s stakeholders have collectively outlined,” said KEDB Director Jackie Kaina.
The progress towards these goals will be monitored over the course of the next half-decade.
The plan is available for the public at www.kauai.gov/OED.
Source: The Garden Island