FORTY years ago the great industrialist Henry J. Kaiser predicted the future of Hawaii business would be in what he called think industries.
He loved Hawaii and lived out his busy "retirement years" here. In them, he launched the Hawaiian Village Hotel, created suburban Hawaii Kai, and extended the Kaiser-Permanente Medical Plan to Hawaii.
He contended others, too, would like to live and work here, given the opportunity. Think industries could become a major element in our economy because they are not in need of the ports or rivers or good rail connections that then anchored much of America's industry.
I thought of him recently when I heard a talk titled: "Internet Development in Hawaii -- the World is Watching."
Internet and software applications are just one aspect of high-tech development in Hawaii that involved 275 companies in a 1998 state survey. If their combined activity hasn't already passed $1 billion a year, it will any minute.
The speaker was Mary Fastenau, more publicized elsewhere than in this newspaper, probably because she is the wife of our publisher, John Flanagan.
Hawaii shouldn't have a technology inferiority complex.Fastenau is president and co-founder of StarrTech Interactive, a division of Starr Seigle Communications. The division is doubling in size annually and has added a Las Vegas office.
Great Hawaii companies are producing great products.
Hawaii Internet development is being exported. Conversely, outside companies are competing here, too.
She summarized the equally fast-growing work of a sampling of six other Hawaii companies, sometimes collaborators, sometimes competitors.
They have branches in Japan and on the U.S. mainland. In Hawaii they serve many of our top corporations but also stand alone in many ventures.
Services offered -- with the "e" standing for electronic -- include development of e-businesses and e-business conferences, the latter for collaboration as well as competition.
Also: animation, development of e-business strategies and systems, Web development and data compilation for research and information.
Also: helping firms develop their own World Wide Web networks and integrate them into existing data processing systems.
Also: online branding, marketing and training.
Specialists hold such titles as analysts, programmers, project managers, Web site developers, project planners, graphic designers, animators, marketing executives.
This industry is far, far from maturity.
The opportunity to choose Hawaii as a base also is immense. The dean of business administration at the University of Hawaii, David McClain, agrees with Kaiser about Hawaii's location but adds a caution about "tyranny of scale" demanding large operations because they will be the most efficient and profitable.
My memory goes back to when there were dozens of auto manufacturers, even in my small home city. Now we have a giant few.
McClain sees Fastenau as a former student in the UH Master of Business Administration program, whose eyes were opened by it to the potential of the Internet as a way to develop for electronic businesses -- locally and worldwide.
Before graduating in 1996, she immediately moved to have her own parent company place more focus on it and create the fast-growing division she now heads.
A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.