Oahu economic
growth at bottom
during slow ’90s

A new report ranks Honolulu
economic growth last in
the U.S. from 1991-2001

By Russ Lynch

Oahu produced a higher value of goods and services last year than the entire country of Bangladesh but less than oil-rich Kuwait, according to a new study by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The study, comparing cities, counties, states and countries, did not provide a population-based comparison, however, and no per-capita information.

Looking only at metropolitan areas, the study shows Honolulu at $35 billion gross metropolitan product in 2001, up 4.8 percent from $33.4 billion in 2000. Despite that growth, Honolulu was still only in 62nd place out of 319 communities across the country.

In average annual growth from 1991 to 2001, Honolulu was at the bottom of the list -- 319 out of 319 -- with a growth rate of 2.7 percent compared to top-rated Las Vegas at 10.4 percent.

Statisticians don't much like such comparisons, pointing out that metropolitan San Francisco, for example, is only a small part of the total Bay Area economy.

But even if the numbers are comparable, there is another issue, the quality of life, said Leroy Laney, a professor of economics at Hawaii Pacific University and a prominent local economist.

"Honolulu often does not rank high. We know what we rank high on. It's a measure of lifestyle, health, longevity," he said.

But Laney doesn't like studies that don't make real comparisons, such as this one that mixed communities, states and countries.

"These things are arbitrary" and within the parameters of such studies Honolulu and Hawaii often don't get good ratings, he said. Laney also questioned the study's use of "gross metropolitan product," a term he said he does not use and is not a recognized measure.


Average annual growth of metro area economies from 1991 to 2001:

Rank City % change

1 Las Vegas 10.4

2 Austin, Texas 9.8

3 Boulder, Colo. 9.3

4 Phoenix 9.3

5 Colo. Spgs, Colo. 9.3

314 Lawton, Okla. 3.2

315 Vineland, NJ 3.1

316 Casper, Wyo. 3.0

317 Decatur, Ill. 2.9

318 Weirton, WV 2.8

319 Honolulu 2.7

Source: U.S. Conference of Mayors

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