C. Brewer, one of the state's largest agricultural companies, today said it plans to move its offices and 30 employees to a former sugar mill on a 10.34-acre site at Wainaku Point, overlooking Hilo Bay. C. Brewer Chairman J.W.A. "Doc" Buyers said the relocation will probably take place in the first quarter of 1998.
"This is a move for the 21st Century," Buyers said. "The move is more than just a visionary business strategy - it signifies what we've been saying for some time - the Big Island's vast potential is beginning to surface and we want to help accelerate the process."
C. Brewer, founded in 1826, said it wanted to be closer to its main assets on the Big Island, which Buyers described as "the bread basket of Hawaii." The Big Island subsidiaries include Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp., Hilo Coast Power Co. and Brewer Environmental Industries.
The move also was prompted by the fact that the company's lease for its historic downtown headquarters expires in December 1997. The company had been paying about $1.5 million a year in rent, Buyers said. C. Brewer had leased the 65-year-old building at Fort Street Mall since 1986 after selling it to All Hawaii Holding Inc. for $8.3 million.
Buyers noted that the move will mark the first time that a former Big Five company is based on a neighbor island. Other former Big Five companies, such as Dole Food Co. and the former Amfac Inc., have relocated to the mainland, he said. The Big Five companies, which also included Alexander & Baldwin Inc. and Theo Davis & Co., were agricultural concerns that dominated Hawaii industry into the 1950s.
News of the relocation comes about six months after C. Brewer Homes Inc. relocated its headquarters from Honolulu to Wailuku. The company, a former unit of C. Brewer before the parent firm spun it off in late 1993, develops housing projects on Maui.
Big Island Mayor Steven Yamashiro said the addition of C. Brewer will have a major impact on the county's economy. Yamashiro said that county officials had been negotiating with the company for six to eight months as part of a big push by Hawaii County to attract new business. The new headquarters will be renovated at a cost of up to $3 million.