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2019’s Top Business Stories

Daniel Ramirez

Hawaii had a busy year in business and industry in 2019.

For Hawaii’s No. 1 industry, the year started with a record-breaking number of visitors, nearly 10 million through all of 2018.

However, daily visitor spending continued to decline. The Hawaii Tourism Authority and industry leaders have been trying to shift Hawaii’s focus to attracting bigger spenders. Controlling tourism’s impact was a theme for 2019, this was also the year Oahu cracked down on illegal transient accommodations. The new county ordinance is meant to cut down on commercial activity in neighborhoods and put housing back into the long-term rental market.

When it comes to big money deals in the islands, real estate is the industry where you’ll find them. Hawaii very nearly became the second state in the nation to eliminate the tax deductions afforded to Real Estate Investment Trusts, or REITS. A bill was passed to tax them locally, but vetoed by Gov. David Ige.

In terms of acquisitions, Blackstone and Alexander & Baldwin spent the most in the Islands acquiring properties. Blackstone’s purchases included the Kalaeloa Rental Homes portfolio for $211 million and the lease interest in the Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel for more than $100 million.

A&B reinvested, nearly to the dollar, the $262 million it earned in late 2018 selling 41,000 acres of former ag land on Maui. In 2019, it used the proceeds to buy such things as the land under the Honolulu Home Depot, the Queen’s Marketplace in Waikoloa Beach Resort, a Kapolei industrial facility where pre-cast concrete portions of the rail project are fabricated, and more.

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