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  • 06 Jun 2024 by Maui Chamber of Commerce

    Ryan Ouye recalled his family had only one store on Maui when its construction equipment rental business expanded to Kauai to be a part of the rebuilding of the island after Hurricane Iniki in 1992.His business, Service Rentals & Supplies, now with six stores statewide, received the 2021 Mayor’s Small Business Award for Lifetime Achievement for Maui County - an honor, Ouye said, that brought a smile to his father Richard, the business founder, who passed in 2022. Like many enterprises that have been honored by the Mayor’s Small Business Awards, small businesses like Ouye’s demonstrate resilience and an ability to successfully meet challenges.

    The Chamber anticipates that the gala event celebrating the 2024 Mayor’s Small Business Awards, to be held on September 19, will feature some extraordinary nominees as we have seen in the past, and those who have overcome phenomenal challenges due to the wildfires in Kula and Lahaina.

    The 2021 Exceptional Small Business award winner Mitzi Toro, owner of The Maui Cookie Lady in Makawao, grew her mail-order boutique business despite the COVID pandemic. Her Lilikoi Cookie was selected for the Food Network Gift Guide, and the French magazine Bon Appetit named her business as among the top cookie companies in the world based on taste tests. Toro’s business has been the subject of stories in Forbes, Men’s Health and O magazine and has appeared on Good Morning America, and on QVC.

    Michelle Heller, whose business, Da Kine Paints, received the award in 2022, said she owes the idea of starting the business to her late father who was a painting contractor on Maui. Heller is also the chair of the Chamber’s advisory board to the Construction Industry of Maui trade council. The trade council, representing more than 100 businesses, sponsors the Bob Poulson Scholarship, and awarded three college-bound recipients $25,000 this year.

    Venture Physical Therapy owners Ted and Ann Anderson, who received the 2022 Exceptional Small Business Award with 11 to 39 employees, brought scores of employees to the gala event. Ted Anderson told us that Chamber has opened us up to “multiple opportunities to get our message into the community.” Venture Physical Therapy has grown to operate four physical therapy clinics and offers an outreach service that includes visits to a client’s home. They also donate their services to help raise money for Imua Rehab Maui. Ted Anderson continues to volunteer serving as a guest speaker about chronic pain, stroke recovery, and falls.

    The awards recognition event began with the Maui Chamber of Commerce in 2002 and expanded to include a partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development in 2004. At that time, the event was renamed the Mayor’s Small Business Awards and broadened to incorporate our sister islands of Molokai and Lanai. Regardless of the winners chosen, all nominated businesses will be recognized at the event with a large poster commemorating their nomination and work, in addition to having their photograph taken with the Mayor and accolades they will receive during the event program. Nominators will be recognized as well for taking the time to showcase these outstanding businesses and highlighting how they contribute to the community.

    Nominations for the 2024 Mayor’s Small Business Awards in various categories are being accepted on or before Aug. 15, 2024. For more information and entry forms, click here:

    For tickets to the Mayor’s Small Business Awards event, click here:


  • 17 May 2024 by Maui Chamber of Commerce

    May 3 was sine die, the adjournment of the 2024 State Legislative Session. Each year, the Maui Chamber of Commerce is very active in both County and State legislative activities. With this being the second year of the State Legislature’s biennium, the session began with 5,536 bills introduced in 2023 and 2024. From January through April during the legislative session, we were busy tracking over 400 bills related to our priorities and submitted over 200 pieces of testimonies, with 40 in just one week.

    While we are a business organization, housing is our top legislative priority because housing impacts us all. We have a severe worker shortage and residents moving off island because of our housing shortage, which negatively impacts our local businesses.

    Given this, we are thrilled to see the passage of several bills in the 2024 State Legislative Session that will help to add to our housing inventory on Maui by widening building choices, allowing existing property owners to add units, and converting commercial properties to housing units.

    House Bill 2090 allows the reuse of commercial buildings for residential purposes as well as having housing units above commercial properties. The bill provides flexibility as we rebuild historic districts that once had many mom ’n pop stores where the owners lived on the top floor. Repurposing buildings could also help to revive commercial center districts and reduce rush hour traffic by allowing some people to live closer to their workplace. Hayden Aluli, an attorney and a co-trustee of the Aluli Trust, with several commercial properties along Market Street in Wailuku, said the new law could help to open new opportunities in Wailuku Town. “It’s exciting,” said Aluli. “It could change the whole fabric of Wailuku.”

    Another measure, Senate Bill 3202, allows the number of accessory dwellings to increase from one to two on residential properties statewide, including Maui where the numbers have been limited to one. State Senator Troy Hashimoto said some residential areas, limited by water or space, may not be able to add a second accessory dwelling. But Hashimoto said the situation might be different in Lahaina, where rebuilding might accommodate more density. “It’s a potential tool,” Hashimoto said.

    Additionally, Senate Bill 1170 creates a program, where in addition to federal and state entities, counties including Maui County would offer a tax credit program to developers of affordable housing, which can help housing projects better pencil out and be more affordable to build.
    Housing developer Chris Flaherty, the managing general partner of the Oahu-based  ʻIkenākea Development, said he supported Senate Bill 1170 because the housing credits could be used in financing the capital required to build the partnership’s proje
    cts.ʻIkenākea Development is beginning to develop the affordable housing project at Hale O Pi’ikea in Kihei.

    Lastly, Senate Bill 2066, offers another avenue for home builders to use the state 201H-38 process for moderate income residents and fast-tracks permitting and approvals.

    We strongly believe we need all tools in the toolbox and out of the box thinking to chip away at our deficit and get housing units built for our residents, which is why we testified on and largely supported these bills during the process. We look forward to seeing the positive benefits these bills have on our housing crisis.