Advertisement - Click to support our sponsors.

Friday, March 24, 2000


Pacific contacts
sparking new deals
in Hawaii

Businesses expect this week's
international event will pay
off in many ways

By Susan Kreifels


He arranged tennis for the son of the Malaysian prime minister, and played golf with the chairman of Honda.

Gerald Wong, chief executive officer of Oil Guard Pacific, has no doubts that his unusual schmoozing with the high and mighty will lead to business. He plans to travel to Malaysia by the end of the year.

"PBEC was the catalyst for a lot of business happening here," said Wong, whose company distributes oil filtration systems in East Asia. "Even small businesses like mine had the opportunity to meet with the movers and shakers of the other-world companies."

Organizers of this week's international meeting of the Pacific Basin Economic Council have said for a year that the prestigious gathering of corporate power would be the best one-time shot at improving the state's weak business image abroad and would lead to profitable contacts.

While networking with the almost 500 delegates who traveled here won't bring quick announcements of new jobs or investment pouring into the state, local business people are confident that their chats on the links and over lunch will eventually bring business.

"Like any good business relationship, it starts with a handshake rather that a contract," said Wesley Fong, vice chair of Hawaii/ Pacific District Export Council. Fong had breakfast yesterday with the director general of the China PBEC delegation.

Some didn't even have to be at the conference for a chance to cash in. Robin Nelson, chairman of Nelson & Haworth golf course architects, meets for lunch today with a Chinese delegate who is connected to numerous golf courses there. PBEC officials put him in touch with Nelson, who's already designed courses in China.

"We need all the help we can get," Nelson said about the impact of the conference on Hawaii's suffering economy. "Where better place to meet than Hawaii?"

Thirty-five international delegates reviewing PBEC's biotech policies toured the Oceanic Institute, a private, nonprofit organization that conducts research and development in aquaculture. Thomas Farewell, the institute's president and chief executive officer, made at least six follow-up business connections. His guests represented such heavyweights as McDonald's Restaurants and Cargill Inc.

The head of the PBEC food committee called the Oceanic Institute "an unheralded success story of Hawaii," Farewell said. "These people who came out here will be our spokespersons for the attributes of Hawaii as they work in their business circles."

Robert Lees, Honolulu-based secretary general of PBEC, said the payoffs of the conference will be hard to quantify. For example, a board member of the parent company of Cathay Pacific Airways told Lees that as soon as he returned to Hong Kong, he would ask about getting a direct flight between there and Hawaii.

Lees also said Filipino delegates were meeting with a local insurance company.

Even after the conference ended Wednesday, the networking continued. Forty local businesses hosted 40 Asian delegates at the Waialae Country Club for golf yesterday.

The chairperson of the New Zealand PBEC told Wong that this year's international conference was the best ever. And it's just beginning. After PBEC is held in Tokyo next year, the conference returns to Honolulu for the following three years.

PBEC offered a special one-day session for a sellout crowd of close to 500 local businesses.

Hawaii may never know exactly how many deals were struck in quiet corners or over wine. Ken Erdman, chairman of the PacRim Marketing Group Inc., said "some of the best connections are better left confidential so you don't let the competitor know where you're headed."

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2000 Honolulu Star-Bulletin