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Chamber of Commerce Hawai'i Doubles Membership

Wayne Yoshioka

The Hawai’i Chamber of Commerce annual luncheon attracted nearly 800 attendees and marked a major milestone for the business advocacy organization.  HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.

The Chamber of Commerce of Hawai’i hosted its 167th anniversary luncheon and also celebrated the doubling of its membership to 2,017.  Chamber president and CEO, Sherry Menor-McNamara, says part of that effort was to organize businesses state-wide.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO, Chamber of Commerce of Hawai'i

“We thought it was important to partner, collaborate with our neighbor island chambers because resources and access to our state capitol are not as accessible so what we did was offer them where their members are also our members to create this cohesive unit to have one unified voice at the state legislature or other levels of government.”

McNamara says the ambitious goal was set two years ago.  In the upcoming legislative session, which convenes in January, the state-wide chamber of commerce will be watching measures dealing with minimum wage increases and mandatory sick, safe and family leave.  Vice President for Business Advocacy and Development, Pono Chong, says the chamber will also continue to participate in the debate on pay equality for women.  He says many lawmakers support it but there must be a balance between wage information and employers rights.

“That was some of our concerns two sessions ago where it allowed people to share wage information among employees. The concern there is your competitor will now know what you pay your employees.  And now with unemployment at less than 3 percent, you’re sharing proprietary information about your organization with your competitor and we think that’s unfair and unreasonable.”

Chong says there are conflicting studies on wage discrepancy versus gender discrimination and that conversation will be on-going.

The state-wide organization will also help to solidify relationships among businesses on the various islands and the Counties.  Kaua’i Mayor Bernard Carvalho has participated in the annual Taste of Hawai’i on Capitol Hill events in Washington DC.  He says it will be the 5th annual event next year and should be better than ever.

“So on the first year, Senator Kouchi and myself from Kaua’i, we took a contingent.  It was just an opportunity for businesses to go to D.C. and you get Congress people coming and all the different people sharing some of the great products and giving our businesses the opportunity to connect and flourish.  And then our local chambers from Maui, from Kaua’i and Hawai’i Island, all coming together.”

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Mike Hernandes-Soria, company founder and Chamber of Commerce of Hawai'i member

Meanwhile, Mike Hernandes Soria says he generates a lot of business at chamber events by meeting company decision-makers.  Soria is the owner and founder of a water filtration company that installs machines to purify tap water, thereby eliminating 5 gallon plastic water jugs.

“We heard that Young Brothers had a number of workers comp injuries related to lifting those 5 gallon jugs and they eliminated those.  Hawaiian Airlines bought from us in Kona, where it’s really hot, for their baggage handlers we have a system called the Max.  It makes an enormous amount of cold water.  So all these baggage handlers are filling up big thermos, hydo-flasks and things to take out with them and they’re so happy to have large amounts of cold water available to them.”

Soria’s water stations can also make hot water.  Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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