Shifting Hawaii's economy requires investment
The governor has proposed a bundle of programs to turn the state's economy toward science and technology.
A LONG-STANDING goal for Hawaii has been to shift the islands' economy from low-paying, low-skilled jobs in industries tied to development of finite land resources. Achieving that goal has better prospects with Gov. Linda Lingle's proposals
linking a network of education initiatives with technological programs.
As she begins her second term, the governor hopes to place her imprint on the state through separate projects that when collected could spur Hawaii toward a future less dependent on the buying and selling of property for commercial, housing and tourism purposes, a pattern that increasingly generates conflict.
Lingle's plan holds the possibility for quick results, but is geared toward the longer term, particularly in its education facets.
The core of her proposal is to boost scholarship in math and sciences through public and private schools, colleges and universities. The holistic approach would include academies for students, using nontraditional methods, and advanced training necessary for teachers.
For example, instead of learning about science through books, the academies would put more emphasis on broad practical work, like building robots or fixing engines.
These techniques spark interest in subjects children often see as stuffy and sterile. However, skills and knowledge in science and math are exactly what children eventually will need to get jobs that pay well and to help the state's economic evolution, which is what the governor envisions as an end product of her plan.
The state has enlisted Kamehameha Schools to build a life sciences research center to be used by small tech-related businesses that cannot invest in stand-alone facilities. Lingle plans to expand "back lot" enterprises that have taken a secondary role to big film and television productions, incorporating the technological aspects of the entertainment industry that could prove lucrative.
Lingle also sees Hawaii's music industry as an incubator for tech growth and employment, forming a partnership with Belmont University in Nashville and Honolulu Community College through which students could learn about the entertainment business, applied sciences and production. She also is proposing to help build studio facilities where local musicians can record and work.
The governor also plans to make use of technology to streamline government functions, promising to have all permitting online in four years, to track jobs that might be lost due to business failures and to prepare training in advance for workers who might end up unemployed.
The success of Lingle's ideas will require legislators, education officials, teachers, principals, businesses and the tech industry to buy in -- and to do so for the long run. Previous governors have attempted similar initiatives, and Lingle acknowledges that promotion of Hawaii as a beach-and-bikini location has hampered such efforts. But with friction growing over the state's current economic model, a transformation is essential.