Some of the best, most objective measures available of our state's business and investment climate show that Hawaii is succeeding at creating a more secure economic future.
Hawaii jumped 10 spots in Forbes magazine's annual list of best states to do business, which was released on July 31. Of the six criteria taken into account, Hawaii ranked fourth in the nation for economic climate and 10th for labor. Overall, Hawaii ranked 27th, compared to 37th in 2007 and 42nd in 2006. This is a vast improvement from March 2002, when Forbes' infamous article said doing business in Honolulu had "become nearly equivalent to suicide."
Hawaii also posted remarkable improvement in the State Technology and Science Index published by the Milken Institute in June, climbing 11 spots to rank 28th overall in the nation. The index examines states' abilities to leverage resources to achieve long-term economic growth.
In addition to citing strides the state has made as part of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, the Milken report praised the administration's efforts to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in our schools, one of several critical components of the Hawaii Innovation Initiative.
Hawaii's leaps in rankings in the Forbes list and Milken index are striking. They also are more telling than a temperature check of current economic conditions and indicate that the foundation of our economy is relatively strong. The Milken report in particular shows a growing recognition of how the initiatives we have in place will improve Hawaii's future over the long term.
In a global, interconnected economy, each community needs to find areas of expertise in which to be competitive. For Hawaii - where we are blessed with abundant renewable energy resources - alternative energy is one of those areas. To realize this potential and reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels, we have set an ambitious goal of 70 percent use of renewable energy within one generation as part of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative - the first-ever state partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy.
Another long-range strategy we are pursuing to create a more diverse and resilient economy is developing our state's human capital. The Hawaii Innovation Initiative is focused on building on the intellectual capacity of our workforce and students so that Hawaii is a place for innovative activity to thrive and grow - and a place where smart, entrepreneurial people want to be. Our goal is to reduce our economic dependence on land development and to build on Hawaii's principle strength, its people, thereby preserving the natural resources that make Hawaii a desirable place to live.
Hawaii's climb in ratings offers a validation of our collaborative efforts to date, and serves as a clear reminder of why we can't go back to doing business as usual. The status quo will not suffice in a world that is becoming more competitive, interconnected and technologically advanced by the day. With the support of the Legislature, businesses and the community at large, the multifaceted components of the Hawaii Clean Energy and Innovation Initiatives will put Hawaii where it needs to be for our future generations to succeed.
Russell Pang is chief of media relations for Gov. Linda Lingle.