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DBEDT Helps Local Companies Export Products

Wayne Yoshioka

There are more than 120-thousand small businesses in Hawai’i and the state is ready to help owners grow their business. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.


Hawai’i exports generated 23-billion dollars last year…according to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.  The Hawai’i State Trade Expansion Program – HI-Step -- can help local owners with sales in foreign markets.  Rob Hack is the project coordinator.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
(L-R) Hawai'i-Pacific Export Council (HI-PEC) members, Rob Haak, Betty Brau and Brenda Foster. The Hawai'i District was named the number one district in the nation by the U.S. Commerce Department.

“Our programs are geared at trying to teach the small companies about export-related topics such as finance, logistics, shipping and labeling, cultural issues, how to attend a trade show, topics like this.”

Training and advising are provided free to local companies.  The state also subsidizes participation at foreign trade shows.  Owners pay air fare and partial fees.  Mark Richie is the chief of DBEDT’s Business Support Branch.

“Hawai’i is a small market itself and for Hawai’i companies to grow, they have to think about shipping and selling their product outside of Hawai’I and that includes export markets”.

Artisan companies already export food products, candles and swimwear, primarily to Japan.  Angie Higa is the CEO, owner and designer of a company that exports beach-inspired tote-bags and clutches.  Her latest design is a water-proof lined pouch with a vintage photo.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Angie Higa holds her new water-proof lined pouch which has a picture of her parents in 1949.

“This is a picture of my parents.  They met in 1949.  Since my parents have passed, you know, this was my love letter to my parents.  They met on a blind date and this was their first kiss.”

HI-Step is funded by a federal grant each year to DBEDT’s Business Development Branch.  Jamie Lum is the Branch Chief.

“We receive $400-thousand from the Small Business Administration.  What we have available for actual direct assistance to companies is about $80-

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
DBEDT Business Support and Development Branch Chiefs, Mark Richie and Jamie Lum.

thousand.  But the other funds are used to help subsidize trade shows that we take Hawai’i companies to.  Altogether, we help close to 300 companies.”

Small Businesses in Hawai’i employ 260-thousand people or 38 percent of the state’s workforce.  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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