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Thursday, March 23, 2000


Isles told to get on
high-tech bandwagon

PBEC plans to return to Hawaii,
beginning in 2002, for the next
three annual conferences

Delegates discuss corporate responsibility
Steve Forbes slams isle taxes, regulation

By Susan Kreifels


The Pacific Basin Economic Council gave a vote of confidence to Hawaii this week, confirming it would return here starting in 2002 for the next three annual conferences.

And several visiting delegates encouraged local people to jump into the "new economy" of information technology, saying there was nothing to stop them from sharing in the business boom seen on the U.S. mainland that has skipped Hawaii.

"Location doesn't matter," said Derek Williams, senior vice president of Oracle Corp.'s Asia Pacific Division, based in Singapore. "There's a very low cost of entry."

Oracle is the world's largest database software maker. "It comes down to creativity. There's no reason you can't be as creative as Silicon Valley. It's all about thinking in a different way. It's happening all around the world."

Atsushi Yamazaki, corporate director for Asia Pacific Trade Affairs at Sun Microsystems in Palo Alto, Calif., agreed. "The place is not the issue," Yamazaki said. "It's up to the person or idea."

The annual PBEC meeting ended yesterday, and conference organizers said they believe that the close to 500 delegates who traveled here have a better image of Hawaii as a place to do business and hold meetings, not just tour. Local government and business leaders tried to use the conference as a way to promote Hawaii's business image.

Larry Johnson, PBEC conference chairman and chief executive officer and chairman of Pacific Century Financial Corp./Bank of Hawaii, said a number of delegates were impressed by the Hawaii Convention Center. "They didn't expect to see such an outstanding facility," Johnson said. "Half of the delegates have the ability to hold a convention here."

S.R. Cho, chairman of Hyosung Corp. in Korea, said he believed delegates would leave with a different image of Hawaii: not just a tourist spot but a place of business.

Cho also said that many Asians would come here rather than fly over Hawaii to the mainland if they were convinced the islands offered quality health care.

To improve Hawaii's economy, Williams said it would also take creating an environment that encourages risk.

Singapore offers start-up funds for internet companies with good ideas. Taiwan, suffering brain drain to the United States, uses 10-year personal tax breaks to entice its young information-technology experts to come home.

Oracle has an office of 17 people here, and more business in Hawaii means more for Williams.

"If people thought they could set up and run the business from here, why would they want to leave?" asked Williams, who planned to meet with Gov. Ben Cayetano today. "There's more money in venture capital than ever before."

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