Earmarks help fill strategic gaps


POSTED: Thursday, March 25, 2010

I am responsible for a high-tech, 24/7 manufacturing operation on Kauai. We employ 24 people, 22 of whom were hired locally. About two-thirds of our ohana have no college degree. Because of the nature of our business, we are fortunate to be able to provide a wage and benefit package far in excess of typical employment opportunities here on Kauai. Without the earmark process in general, and Sen. Dan Inouye in particular, we wouldn't be here. We would probably be “;over there”; somewhere, benefiting some other community, maybe not even a U.S. community.

Our product is a unique-in-the-world ceramic material that provides solutions to issues in both Department of Defense and commercial applications. Without small, nimble, innovative firms like ours, the DoD would lack adequate innovative resources. The big prime contractors no longer spend such development money. They look to buy innovation from small firms like us.

The budget submitted to the Congress each year by the president continues the practice of recent decades to seek fiscal accountability by reducing R&D spending. Thankfully there are those in the Congress like Sen. Inouye who recognize that such strategic gaps need to be filled and can marry the filling of those gaps for the country with local imperatives like economic diversification.

In the DoD world, we are providing solutions to prime defense contractors and the government, primarily in the areas of aeronautical and aerospace applications, most having to do with defense of the homeland. In the commercial world, we are a 100-percent exporter from Hawaii with about 15 percent of those exports going outside the U.S. to Europe and Asia.

Finally, I'd like to mention an important and gratifying byproduct of the earmark process—at least here in Hawaii under Sen. Inouye's leadership. In no small part due to his example, our company enjoys a culture that is heavy on community service. Our employees spend countless hours in the community serving in a variety of ministries. Would we have developed such a culture without having known Sen. Inouye? Perhaps. But one thing is certain: It is impossible to spend any amount of time around the senator without being inspired to use your talents to serve.

One more thing: Our operation here on Kauai does not make political contributions. As to what individual employees do in that regard, we know not nor care not. It is never discussed.

David E. Kane is general manager of Trex Advanced Materials in Lihue, Kauai.