Erika Engle

There’s marketing and service
reciprocity in them thar hills


Thursday, May 6, 2004

The mini trade show of Hawaii products scheduled for May 12 at the Hawaii Prince Hotel is being sponsored by the state Department of Agriculture. "TheBuzz" on Page E1 Sunday incorrectly reported that it was the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism. The contact information in the article was correct.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at

It's the market potential, stupid. Businesses know the next big revenue stream could come from Asia, but how to get in?

The state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism is planning an event to introduce Hawaii products to 18 buyers from Guangzhou, China. They're looking to import beverages, juices, snack foods, canned foods, cooking oil, confectionary products, health products, dried fruits and nuts.

Heading in the other direction, the Center for Retail Excellence at the University of Hawaii College of Business Administration is leading an Asia tour for marketing faculty and private sector sales folk.

"My goal is to bring some local sales executives who want to learn how to export to Asia, so we can have three weeks of brainstorming together," said Mark Rosenbaum, research director.

Rosenbaum's tour will lead 15 to 20 people to Japan, Beijing, Shanghai and Ho Chi Minh City where they will meet with commerce executives.

Philip Grillo of First Insurance signed up to give blood Friday as Millie Hook and Winnie Mokiau from the Blood Bank of Hawaii looked on.

"It's a prime opportunity for Hawaiian companies to learn how to export to Japan, which is a thriving market, to China, which is an emerging market and to Vietnam, which is a future market," Rosenbaum said.

The cost is $3,500 per person; his number is 956-6607.

Businesses that don't have $3,500 and a passport to plunk down for an Asia trip may find it easier to travel to the Hawaii Prince Hotel for the May 12 DBEDT mini trade show.

Keith Schneller, director of the federal Agriculture Trade Office in Guangzhou, will present a market overview and discuss export opportunities prior to the 90-minute show.

Seating and display space are limited and reservation forms are available from the DBEDT Market Development Branch at 973-9465. The deadline is May 7.

The business of service

Talk of serving the community at many companies ends when employees return their Aloha United Way pledge cards.

During a two-hour community service fair Friday afternoon, executives at First Insurance Co. of Hawaii Ltd. served ice cream sundaes to employees who collected toppings and information from different community service organizations. The nonprofits -- including the Alzheimer's Association, Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii and the Hawaiian Humane Society -- were invited to recruit volunteers.

The fair was organized by an internal employee group called First CAT, for community action team, said Steve Tabussi, First Insurance vice president for customer solutions.

First CAT "is really a conduit between the company and community groups across the state," he said. The group also organizes a Christmas tree decorating contest and donates the trees to different family welfare organizations, Tabussi said.

American Savings Bank also puts its employees and its money where its community-service-mouth is.

In June of 2001, the strategic plan changed under President and Chief Executive Officer Connie Lau.

The goal was to "transform the bank from a retail thrift to a full-service community bank," she said. That meant figuring out what a community bank was. It arrived at a definition that has each branch focus on the community in which it operates.

Employees are encouraged to "get involved on the grassroots level" to determine the communities' specific needs and serve them, she said.

There are as many examples as there are branches.

American Savings was an early funder of a high-tech training program for Hawaiian homesteaders in Anahola, Kauai, where participants digitize Department of Defense manuals.

Branch managers in Hilo work closely with the Small Enterprise Education and Development Program, which teaches small farmers business skills.

And pledge cards count, too.

"In the year 2000, the year before we started our new strategic plan, our contribution level was just under $85,000. This past year we were just over $153,000," Lau said.

The bank this year changed its vision statement to reflect the activity.

It went from a generic-sounding desire "to be the financial institution preferred by the people of Hawaii" to, "We want to be that involved, local bank, committed to helping Hawaii's businesses and communities grow and prosper."

Consider it enlightened shareholder-interest.

"We don't grow if our communities don't grow," Lau said.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:


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