Sunday, September 5, 2004



David C. Cole

>> Chairman, president and chief executive of Maui Land & Pineapple Co. Cole assumed leadership of the company in October 2003.
>> A former executive for America Online, Cole received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Hawaii Board of Regents this year.Cole was raised in Kailua.
>> Cole recently rejoined the board of the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii

Several Maui Land & Pine officials have recently stepped down, following a time of heavy losses. Why the changes?

The company's in a turnaround ... It's not unusual for new leadership to reach out for skill that previously wasn't represented in the company.

What will be different?

We're moving in a different direction. In agriculture, we're moving from commodity into specialty, from processed into fresh food as a focus. We're changing our marketing, distribution ... we're changing virtually all of the modes ... field health, soil capabilities, plant fitness, a lot of the management reporting techniques. At the resort, the recent acquisition of the Kapalua Bay Hotel is a big part of that effort. Also we're extending beyond the excellent reputation we have in golf to bring other amenities to Kapalua Resort that will enable us to compete. You could think of us as being a 10 on a 10-point scale for golf but we have a lot more work to do in some other areas. Wellness, ocean recreation, equestrian, fine dining, retailing. There's all these other dimensions. Tennis ... areas where we may be at a 7 or 8 or 9, and in some of these areas which were nonexistent. It's a huge resort where a lot of these things need to be done. It would take years. A lot of moving parts need to be done.

I understand the company has a work-study program being developed with Earth University and an alternative energy project. Can you tell us about that?

For the Institute for Sustainable Living, we work with Maui Community College. We have six students here. Among other things, we have projects in soil health, nutrient recapture ... so how do we kind of close the cycle for what used to be waste becomes food. We're doing alternative energy, wind mapping, windmills as a component in energy management. We're doing some stuff in diversified agriculture. We have an experiment underway with Pacific Biodiesel. We have a vehicle smart car that we're testing in Kapalua where we're burning 100 percent vegetable oil. So we're looking at ways of growing our own fuels and generating power.

What's the plan for the cannery?

Today the cannery occupies about 25 acres in downtown. It was built many years ago. It was one of the finest processing facilities in the 1950s. I think we can go from a 25-acre to three- to five-acre. We can go from being the sole owner to a part owner, kind of an anchor tenant to a multidimensional facility, part of our integrated operation.

What will happen to employees?

We don't know. I think what's happening as we expand our concept to our food crops and indeed to horticultural corps and even fuel crops, as we expand our concept ... in fact there's a multiple of opportunities. If you look at the tourist economy, it's hungry for a wide variety of premium fresh foods, many of them organic or natural foods. That would include stuff in the center of the plate, proteins, to fish of course, to things on the perimeter on the plate, a lot of the greens, vegetables, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, fruits, berries. The climate particularly in upcountry Maui is extremely diverse, but our intention is not to grow these things ourselves; our strategy is to grow growers. To help them reach markets and do that in conjunction with our new facility. We're sizing it now. The way we're were approaching planning ... we really take a more collaborative approach, a lot of policy makers, elected officials, large landowners, people engaged in competitive enterprises, it's been much more of an outreach process. For example, we're having our second annual summit (this) week in Kapalua.

What's your feeling on Maui development?

I think folks are trying to address the market. There's a desperate effort in the state to deliver homes to hard-working people that gives you a prayer to return to the lifestyle you'd always hoped for in Hawaii but is getting out of reach. There are significant risks to the state ... and the state of Hawaiianess to the extent that we alienate our working-class folks for the people that visit here, we risk both. The solution is to bring the three most important things in people's lives back to the center and make it a part of planning. The first is to have housing of dignity, character. ... The second is provide opportunities to progeny. ... We may be at a point now where people think the best for the children is to leave Hawaii, which is the worst thing for Hawaii. It's very dangerous if they leave with the intention of not returning. We need our keiki to revitalize these things. No. 3 relates to health and there's a spiritual component to that as well as nutritional component. We're not taking care of ourselves. We're not taking time to revitalize ourselves and our families. We're working too many jobs. We're living too many people in one house. We're spending too much time on the road. We bring in over 90 percent of our food. We're a veritable cargo cult, which is not terribly nutritious, but we have unused agriculture land. That's inexcusable.

When could the whole company hit black?

The company by its nature is going to be lumpy. We have a couple of operating companies, the resort, the pineapple company that kind of dominate the operating scene. And we have our development initiatives. Since we're adopting a holistic approach ... it's going to make more effort to deliver on those, in time and money. We discourage impatient investors from looking at our company.



E-mail to Business Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- http://archives.starbulletin.com