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Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Expert: Kauai
economy getting lift
from many areas

Increased visitors, movie
filming, the Navy's missile
facility and agriculture are
among the contributors cited

State explores Amfac land options

By Anthony Sommer
Kauai correspondent

POIPU, Kauai -- Tourism gains, film production, the Navy's high-tech missile range and growth in diversified agriculture are fueling Kauai's economy, according to economist Leroy Laney.

In a speech to the 26th annual Kauai County Business Outlook Forum last night, Laney said Kauai hotel occupancy averaged 76 percent in the first six months of 2000, contrasted with 73 percent during the same period last year. Laney is a professor of economics at finance at Hawaii Pacific University and appeared at the forum representing First Hawaiian Bank, where he is an economic consultant.

The percentage of eastbound visitors, who traditionally have not been high on Kauai, was 18.5 percent of total arrivals, far ahead of the 13.4 percent recorded in the first six months of 1999, he noted.

The percentage of Kauai-only visitors also is up, largely due to new nonstop flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Lihue, Laney said.

Filming of both "To End All Wars" and "Jurassic Park III," being shot on Kauai this month, have been a boon to the island.

"The Kauai economy owes more to various types of film projects on island than any of Hawaii's other counties," Laney said.

The Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility, where shipboard anti-missile defenses are being tested, will receive an additional $150 million in federal appropriations in the coming year, he noted. The range has some of the world's most advanced systems for missile tracking and telemetry. "It is hard to overestimate the economic importance to Kauai of the Pacific Missile Range Facility. In today's world, as all economies everywhere brainstorm to find some way to participate in the emerging high-tech new economy, the facility is invaluable," Laney said.

Diversified agriculture continues to grow on former plantation lands. Papaya production was up 30 percent for the first six months of 2000 compared with the same period a year ago. Taro production in all of 1999 was 4.3 million pounds, the highest in the last five years, he said.

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