Our Islands, Our Future
SBA Community Navigator Pilot Program

SBA Community Navigator Pilot Program

Strengthening communities, one business at a time, is the mission of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Community Navigator Pilot Program. In 2021, the SBA awarded a grant to Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) to build business capacity in underserved and rural communities. The SBA grant is enabling MEDB and several of their Hawaiian and Maui-based community development organizations and partners to provide training and technical assistance to businesses and entrepreneurs. Working to build shared economic prosperity, MEDB is connecting businesses to a vast range of programs and services. They help business owners to reopen, to start, to grow, and to be economically resilient. 

“We are offering weekly seminars, both online and in-person, on various business topics from ideas to completion,” said Gary Albitz, MEDB Business Director and Manager of the Navigator Program. MEDB is following the SBA’s hub-and-spoke model, allowing flexibility and better end-user services. In fact, MEDB is presently seeking more members of the community to become navigator trainers to help educate participants in the program. The navigator job helps reduce administrative barriers that underrepresented and underserved entrepreneurs often face in accessing the right programs to help start and run their businesses. 

Key to the SBA Navigator Program is reaching out to small-business owners who have not yet received any assistance. MEDB’s online Women in Business Seminar Series is also part of the Navigator Program, which prioritizes small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, as well as women and veterans.

Maui resident and recipient of a Women Owned Business Certification (WOB) Galit Breman said, “MEDB has been instrumental in helping me achieve WOB certification. I received one-on-one guidance on how to apply and sustain my WOB certificate and status, which I had tried for years to achieve by myself. In addition, I was able to stay open and thrive during the Covid shutdown due to the Adaptability Grant that was also facilitated by MEDB. This allowed me to transform my website to an e-commerce shop online. Thank you so much MEDB for your important role on island for the financial success of small businesses!” 

MEDB is helping participants get all their business requirements and business plans together. We invite community members to attend workshops or one-on-one meetings, in person or online. Gary Albitz, MEDB Business Director, Manager, Community Navigator Pilot Program

Rights and Rules for Small Businesses

Rights and Rules for Small Businesses

Most small businesses are not familiar with the Hawaii State Small Business Regulatory Review Board (SBRRB) and their work towards a regulatory environment that encourages and supports the vitality of small business in Hawaii. As part of Maui Economic Development Board’s (MEDB) Business Assistance Webinars, a recent online Zoom event with the Hawaii SBRRB discussed rights and rules for small businesses. The one-hour webinar, led by Vice-Chair of the SBRRB, Mary Albitz, and Jet’aime Ariola, SBRRB Office Assistant, informed the community on SBRRB’s advocacy for “for-profit’ small business owners and entrepreneurs.

“We believe that small businesses are the pathway to a stronger economy for Maui and the State of Hawaii,” said Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President and CEO. “Along with SBRRB, MEDB works diligently to assist small businesses with the tools they need for success.”

The SBRRB is an eleven-member board appointed by the Governor from among small business owners and officers from across the State. Its main activities include reviewing and making recommendations to State and County agencies on any proposed new or amended administrative rules, and responding to small business requests for assistance with administrative rules. The Board ensures that regulators do not burden small businesses disproportionately by imposing regulations unfairly. They invite all to get involved as rules are being written.

Albitz explained, “The Board reviews administrative rules that impact small business, and advocates for changes. It is vital for all business owners to learn about the Hawaii Small Business Bill of Rights—what they are and how they affect the way business is done. If you have ever dealt with departments like Environmental Management, Liquor Control, Planning, Public Works, Transportation or Water Supply, then you want to know all about the SBRRB.”

“The SBRRB encourages all Hawaii small business owners to get involved if and when their small business is affected by burdensome rules or regulations,” noted Ariola. “Since the SBRRB’s inception in 1998, it has been perhaps the single most important voice within the government for employers with fewer than 100 employees. If you have any legislative issues or concerns go to https:/, or contact the SBRRB at 808-798-0737 for assistance.”

Our vision is to make Hawaii the most business friendly state in the nation. Mary Albitz, SBRRB Vice-Chair

USDA Program, Loans and Grants

USDA Program, Loans and Grants

The well-attended U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hybrid workshop, sponsored by Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) and USDA, brought together an inter-island team of specialists to advise Maui residents seeking to know more about energy efficiency programs, loans, and grants. The USDA Rural Development initiative operates over 50 financial assistance programs for a variety of rural applications in housing, business and critical infrastructure.

“I thought the workshop provided very helpful information on a number of federal grant and loan programs,” said Michele McLean, representative for Council Chair Alice Lee. “The USDA supports farms and ranches for solar, wind or energy efficiency; business or marketing plans; working capital for value-added products; disaster and drought assistance for crops and livestock; organic certification; and operations, ownership and manufacturing. MEDB hosting the workshop was an important contribution in providing this information to those who will benefit from it.”

Denise Salmeron, USDA Business Programs Director, explained, “Our mission is to increase opportunities and quality of life throughout the Hawaiian Islands and the nation, We have USDA personnel available on Maui and other islands to assist with the application process.”

Walter Enomoto, Hawaii Energy Maui County Manager, noted, “Our organization helps educate island families and businesses about the many and lasting benefits of energy efficiency and conservation. We encourage and reward smart energy decisions that allow our state to reach 100% clean energy faster and cheaper, while lowering energy costs.”

Workshop participant Gigi Voiland from Johnny V. Enterprise said, “I came today to learn about the programs available to help my ag business. I have a four-acre farm in Kaupo and I need solar to get everything to run. I am so grateful to MEDB for hosting this workshop with such valuable information on every level.”

Participant Ron Viloria added, “I learned about Hawaii Energy rebates, USDA opportunities such as Farm Loan Programs, and financing from the Hawaii Green Infrastructure Authority. MEDB reaches out and alerts the public about seminar and workshop opportunities that engage members of the community in a genuine and helpful way. Their wide variety of programs, networking events, and workshops have touched thousands of people.”

You can view the replay at

“We conduct regular one-on-one and group consultations to help individuals get their financial numbers and details together that they will need to apply for a USDA loan or grant.” For more information, visit OR email Gary Albitz, MEDB Business Program Manager

Hawaii Women In Business Webinar

Hawaii Women In Business Webinar

Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) is once again partnering with the Women Business Enterprise Council (WBEC) to present the third webinar in the Women in Business Seminar Series. In celebration of Women’s History Month, the virtual March 16 presentation will feature business owners that have taken the step to get certified as a women-owned, minority-owned, or veteran-owned small business.

“The event will present business owners speaking about how the certification has helped their business including access to new opportunities with various agencies,” said Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President and CEO. “They will share tips on the process and how to overcome hurdles. Plus, participants can learn how to qualify for an MEDB scholarship to get certified.”

WBEC is one of the official certifiers for women-owned small businesses. Companies can get certified as being 51-percent owned and operated by women, minorities, or veterans, in order to qualify for special consideration in government and private contracts. Additionally, they can participate in a sponsor company’s Supplier Diversity programs. Large corporations such as Disney, Intel, AT&T, Major League Baseball, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios have requirements to include a certain percentage of purchases from diverse suppliers.

“Women-owned businesses make up the fastest-growing segment of the national and international business world,” said Dr. Pamela Williamson, WBEC-West President and CEO. “That is just one reason why WBEC-West is dedicated to helping participants navigate the certification process.” Dr. Williamson has been a dedicated senior leader for over twenty years. She envisions a promising future for WBEC-certified women-owned businesses, and takes an active role in facilitating connections between corporations and women’s business enterprises.

Founder, CEO and Chief Technology Officer of CBT Corporation, and speaker at the upcoming webinar, Kelly Ireland said, “WBEC certification is the access to an immense network of like-minded professionals as well as the ability to build alliances and partnerships with other WBE’s. I went through the program and I will be sharing my experience during the webinar. Additionally, I will discuss the exposure to corporate diversity teams that provide insights and support to make it a win-win-win.” Visit for details.

The mission of the WBEC is to create strong team environments and increase economic vitality for WBEC certified women-owned businesses.

Dr. Pamela Williamson, WBEC-West President and CEO

Maui TechOhana: An Entrepreneur’s Journey

Maui TechOhana: An Entrepreneur’s Journey

Maui resident Alex Fielding, Privateer Space CEO and Chairman, was the most recent guest speaker in Maui Economic Development Board’s (MEDB) Maui TechOhana virtual event series. Supported by the County of Maui and MEDB, the TechOhana events provide unique learning experiences and informal networking opportunities for anyone interested in Maui’s County’s technology industry. The virtual meeting had the advantage of breakout rooms to encourage information sharing and social interaction amongst the participants. 

“MEDB continues to be a leader in our business community by providing local entrepreneurs and small-business owners the practical knowledge, skills and resources they need to aim high and succeed.” said Frank De Rego, Jr., Director of Business Development Projects for MEDB. “We at MEDB are thrilled to introduce Alex Fielding to the Maui tech community and thank him for his generosity in talking story with us as friends and colleagues.” 

Fielding discussed his journey of self-discovery as a “techie” and entrepreneur. His resume includes work at Cisco, Apple and NASA, followed by his own company Ripcord specializing in the field of robotic scanning and digitization. Currently, his new company, Privateer Space, is developing new green space technologies and creating the first accurate map of objects in low Earth orbit (LEO). Fielding hopes to identify, assess and track debris among the thousands of satellites in LEO.

 “The dangers of space junk remain all too present,” Fielding explained. “In May, astronauts aboard the International Space Station discovered a five millimeter-wide hole in a robotic arm attached to one of the modules. Privateer Space has just begun working with Astroscale, an orbital logistics and servicing startup that is the first to successfully demonstrate a space junk removal satellite, and we have also signed a partnership with the U.S. Space Force. I am eager to help build Maui County’s technology business ecosystem while tackling issues of global importance.”

Regular Maui TechOhana participant Joe Breman, President and CEO of International Underwater Exploration, reflected, “MEDB’s Maui TechOhana provides leadership and vision in our community for the development of a strong and diversified economy. The collaborative efforts and networking have immensely helped me improve my business.”

Privateer Space has received all necessary approvals to launch its first satellite, Pono 1, in February 2022, followed by Pono 2 in April.

Alex Fielding, Privateer Space
The 2021 Hybrid AMOS Conference

The 2021 Hybrid AMOS Conference

Presented by the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB), the 22nd Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies (AMOS) Conference, was hybrid this year, having both in-person and virtual components. The premier technical conference in the nation devoted to Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and Space Domain Awareness (SDA), offered a cross-section of government, academic, and private-sector participation to help foster dialogue and international collaboration.

“Thanks to the meticulous health and safety planning by our MEDB Conference Team, we were able to move forward,” said Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President and CEO. “The health and well-being of participants was our highest priority while maintaining the important dialogue and networking opportunities the AMOS Conference is known for. This year, having a hybrid conference allowed our international partners to participate in building collaborations, partnerships, and protocols for good actors in the space domain.” 

In addition to the technical sessions, the AMOS Conference included keynote speakers, SSA policy forums, exhibit sessions, technical short courses and networking events. The policy forums, organized in collaboration with Secure World Foundation, were held after the keynote at the start of each day, of the 3-day conference. These sessions brought together the developers and implementers of SSA capabilities and the architects of SSA policy to explore international issues related to space sustainability.

In collaboration with the American Astronautical Society (AAS), the AMOS Conference provided participating authors the opportunity to be published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Astronautical Sciences. At the close of the conference, AAS recognized outstanding efforts by presenting an award for Best Student Paper to Shaylah Mutschler, University of Colorado, Boulder and Best Paper to Maui resident Dr. Channing Chow II, founder and CEO of Cloudstone Innovations LLC.

Chow reflected, “On behalf of myself and my coauthors, we were honored to receive the 2021 AMOS Conference Best Paper Award. We are humbled to be selected amongst a host of such high-quality papers. The AMOS Conference brings together a truly unique juxtaposition of academia, industry, and government working collaboratively towards space safety, security, and exploration. Every year AMOS provides the opportunity to share innovative concepts, challenge stagnant norms, and showcase the latest advances in research and development.”

Space is indispensable to every aspect of daily life. During a live virtual SSA Roundtable preceding the AMOS Conference, experts addressed the current growth of objects in space and the long-term sustainability of the space environment.

Leslie Wilkins, President and CEO, MEDB
Maui Business Connect

Maui Business Connect

Maui Coffee Roasters (MCR), a staple business on Maui since 1982, joined Maui Business Connect, one of Maui Economic Development Board’s (MEDB) newest programs for small businesses. The program focuses on growing local businesses in Maui County through training, mentoring, and networking, as well as connecting innovative businesses in the agriculture, creative, and health care industries. It is designed to help diversify the local economy and create jobs throughout the region.

Leslie Wilkins, President and CEO, MEDB, noted, “We hope to expand our business-development mentoring and counseling to target businesses that are past the ‘startup’ phase and are poised to scale, but need additional technical assistance and coaching to achieve the next level. These businesses are the job creators who will fuel our economy and MEDB’s goal is to offer programs to increase their probability of success.”

Throughout the years, MCR has provided the local community with a comfortable place to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee. Conveniently located in Kahului, they provide a prime spot for travelers and local residents alike. Well known for 100% Hawaiian Coffee, MCR was voted the Best Local Coffee Shop in 2018. It is also a longtime supporter of Maui’s non-profits and winner of the Community Business Award from the Maui Non-Profit Directors Association. The team roasts coffee from across the Hawaiian Islands, as well as a wide selection of international coffee. All of their coffee is freshly roasted in small daily batches using their eco-friendly Loring™ roasters, ensuring the best taste possible. They display colorful art, offer baked goods, and a selection of brewing accessories. However, along with other small businesses, MCR was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. “At MCR we have followed all safety precautions to keep our employees and customers safe,” said MCR General Manager Mike Okazaki. “We entered MEDB’s Maui Business Connect to support and network with other business owners. For 40 years, MEDB has been a dynamic force in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. The Maui Business Connect program assembled a cross-section of established businesses as a think tank of ideas to redefine vibrancy.”

MEDB’s Maui Business Connect program offers technical assistance and coaching to businesses, and helps diversify the local economy to create jobs throughout the state.

Mike Okazaki, Maui Coffee Roasters General Manager
Seminar 2: Opportunities for Women in Business

Seminar 2: Opportunities for Women in Business

Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB), the Small Business Association (SBA) and the Women’s Business Enterprise Council (WBEC) are collaborating to introduce local businesses to networking platforms that hold the potential for new opportunities. One platform is SBA’s Minority Owned Small Business (MOSB) which includes Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) and Veteran’s Owned Small Businesses. On Wednesday July 8, at 10:00 am, MEDB, SBA, and WBEC-West will host a virtual seminar with Dr. Pamela Williamson, President and CEO of WBEC-West, (pictured) and Wayne Wong, Director, Hawaii Small Business Development Center, Maui. The mission of the WEBC is to increase economic vitality in the communities that are served.

Dr. Williamson has been a dedicated senior leader for over twenty years. Her extensive experience in developing and implementing innovative alliances with key stakeholders has enabled the organizations to reach new levels of growth and stability. Williamson’s ability to lead and empower staff members creates a strong team environment that filters throughout the entire organization. She envisions a promising future for WBEC-certified women-owned businesses, and takes an active role in facilitating connections between corporations and women business enterprises.

“Women-owned businesses make up the fastest-growing segment of the national and international business world,” said Williamson. “That is just one reason why WBEC-West is dedicated to helping navigate the certification process. We go through a rigorous and stringent certification process to confirm that the business is owned, managed, and controlled by a woman or women. Additionally, we gained access to over 9,000 other WBEC-certified businesses to network and partner with on joint venture opportunities.”

Leslie Wilkins, President and CEO of MEDB, observed, “The benefits of being a certified women-owned business are considerable, opening new opportunities in sales and revenue streams.” Businesses can get certified by being 51% owned and operated by women, minorities or veterans in order to qualify for special consideration in government and private contracts, and to participate in a sponsor company’s Vendor Diversity Program. Disney, Intel, AT&T, Major League Baseball, MGM and other companies have requirements for a certain percentage of purchases from vendors of diversity.

Forty percent of all businesses in Hawaii are women-owned, meaning there is a lot of untapped potential for women to take advantage of certification. What have you got to lose? Join us for this event, and visit for details.

Leslie Wilkins, President and CEO, MEDB
2021 Hawaii Energy Conference – The Energy Transition in Hawaii

2021 Hawaii Energy Conference – The Energy Transition in Hawaii

There are many ways to invest in the future of energy in Hawaii. It will take creativity and hard work from project developers; the community, including indigenous groups; regulators; and energy service providers to come up with projects that are acceptable for all concerned. Building trust and respect between stakeholders within the context of equitable community development will be a key metric of success. Any viable project will require substantial amounts of financial capital and an adequate return on investment. The skill development and job creation that results must take us towards a new energy economy. Every community faces similar challenges – how can we invest in people while designing energy projects that are financially viable, resilient, and enhance job skills?

Join us for the 8th Annual Hawaii Energy Conference as we explore how to invest with knowledge and respect in Hawaii.

For details and registration visit Save with code FMNHEC.