Meeting buoysAfter two hours behind closed doors yesterday, a contingent of about 60 small-business leaders and lawmakers left Gov. Ben Cayetano's office with a renewed sense of optimism.
Small-business leaders and
Cayetano brainstorm on ways
to counter the slump
By Lisa Asato
The meeting, the latest in a string the governor has had with local industry and union leaders, was meant to discuss concerns of small businesses trying to cope in a economy severely shaken by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Pat McCain, president of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, said he, like many others, came to the meeting worried about the effect on air travel and tourism, which restaurants depend on.
But, he added, "When you listen to everybody around the table tell their side of the story you come away with a sense that it's not near as bad as people feel, and we need to get on with our lives and get back to normalcy."
After the meeting Cayetano also was upbeat. "I was pleasantly surprised by some of the ideas, including things I had never thought of myself.
"One of the things they proposed which made a heck of a lot of sense to me was, why not have here the equivalent of the kind of telethon we saw last night but with Japanese stars?" he said.
"These things will without question be televised back in Japan. It's an effective way of showing them it's safe to come to Hawaii when your top Japanese stars are here performing in Hawaii."
Addressing small business concerns about cash flow, Cayetano said proposals included deferring without penalty the payment of the general excise tax and working with banks to be flexible during the crisis on existing and future loans. The proposed tax relief would require legislative approval, he said.
Last week, Cayetano called for a special session of the Legislature to address the immediate sharp drop in tourism after the suicide hijack attacks of four airplanes on Sept. 11. The tourism slump placed Hawaii in its worst economic crisis ever, the governor said last week.
Cayetano said yesterday he wants to assure the average worker that the economy will rebound.
"To people out there I would just say look at the positive. There are many things that are happening," he said.
The Ironman Triathlon, he noted, has had only seven cancellations out of 1,900 participants, and will go on as planned.
Ron Martin, president of Success Dynamics Inc., which handles sales and customer service training, said there were many requests for government relief in the form of taxes and the governor "was very open to all ideas."
Martin said he invited the group to visit his Web site, www.upyoursales.net, where he posts the revenues that 38 companies have reported to him since the Sept. 11 attack.
"People can look and actually see that things are getting better," he said. "It's getting better every day."