KAUAI BUSINESS ON ROAD TO RECOVERY

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By Barry Graham

WAIPOULI, Kauai - According to a recent study by the Hawai‘i
Business Research Library of the Hawai‘i Small Business Development Center
Network, Kaua‘i's economy is back on a firm growth path.

The study cited tourism, strength in real estate, construction
and non-tourism services as key factors that have contributed to the county's
forward momentum since a decline after the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Though still below 1999 peak levels, tourism has largely
recovered from the mild slowdown that followed the World Trade Center attack
almost two years ago.

In addition to tourism, small businesses on the island have seen
an economic recovery that has translated to better sales numbers and more
customer traffic.

"We are definitely on a growth pattern," said Mary Lou
Mendes, the owner of five stores at the Coconut Marketplace including Golden
Nugget and Island Fever, which opened in May.

"It is still not as strong as it was before 9/11. Customers
are little more home-oriented with their purchases. Also, clothing sales have
not been as strong as they were before 9/11."

With moderately strong growth, this year and next promise to be
good ones for the local economy.

"It (economic growth) has been a little slow, but is
getting better," said Margie Bautista, store manager of the Gecko Store,
which has been at the Marketplace for over 11 years.

"We had an increase in sales last month, which is awesome
for us."

While Coconut Marketplace businesses have a fairly positive
outlook for the economy with regards to visitor spending, establishments that
have a more local customer base have had other concerns.

"From (Hurricane) ‘Iniki to now, our business has
grown," said Pono Market owner Bob Kubota. "But for us, the growth
recently has hit a plateau. So we are trying to expand on what we offer to get
things moving again."

Kubota added that 9/11 didn't have a disastrous effect on Pono
Market's customer traffic and sales.

"It did affect us, but it was short-lived," he said.
"It didn't last too long."

In a July survey of 400 businesses statewide including several
on Kaua‘i, just 40 percent of owners believed the economy would improve in the
coming year.

"In talking with some of the merchants (at the
Marketplace), sales have been slow occasionally, although there are busy
times," said Monica Kunioka, manager of Crazy Shirts.

Crazy Shirts has been at the Marketplace for five weeks, moving
from Kauai Village.

The business survey, conducted by the Business Banking Council
and sponsored by American Savings Bank, was the 12th in a series of economic
pulse taking.

Qmark Research and Polling surveyed 100 businesses statewide in
each of four categories: very small businesses with three to nine employees;
small businesses with 10 to 49 employees; medium-sized businesses with 50 to 99
employees; and large businesses with 100 or more employees.

Results indicated that optimism about the economy is more
prevalent among owners and operators of Neighbor Island businesses than O‘ahu-based
enterprises.

"We expect great things in the future," said Harbor
Mall owner Greg Allen. "The customer traffic from the boats down at the
harbor has been very good for us, and we have had good sales numbers from both
locals and visitors."

September 12, 2003

The Garden Island: www.kauaiworld.com/news 

 

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