Our Islands, Our Future
Affordable Housing Survey to Evaluate Demand

Affordable Housing Survey to Evaluate Demand

An affordable housing survey focusing on the West Maui community has just begun circulation to help define the extent of the need for affordable workforce housing upon which the West Maui economy depends. The initiative for the survey came from the community itself, led by long-time resident Lori Sablas, who has spent most of her career in the visitor industry. “My Dad worked for Pioneer Mill and purchased our first home in 1969 for $19,380. Our monthly payment was $104 per month; how times have changed!”

Lori knows the value of home ownership and her motivation is to help the West Maui workforce buy a home near their workplace, just as her Dad did. As the former Director of Ka’anapali Beach Hotel’s Project Po’okela program, she developed educational opportunities for staff to learn about Hawaiian culture. She was also instrumental in bringing West Side hoteliers together to support the commuter bus system and subsidizing fares to reduce traffic congestion and make commuting as easy as possible.

Across Maui County, as elsewhere in the state and nationally, affordable housing is a critical issue as supply fails to keep up with demand. Recent studies have shown that it is an issue that represents a major constraint on economic development, and as the Maui County General Plan states, “When adequate or appropriate housing is unattainable to a large portion of the population, it negatively impacts the entire community and decreases overall quality of life.”

Originally shaped by an informal working group of West Side HR directors and employers led by Lori Sablas and further developed by MEDB, the West Maui Workforce Housing Survey is a first step to defining the need through data provided by residents.  The exercise will better inform our local community, our policymakers, and real estate development companies about the demand for affordable housing. The survey is entirely anonymous and can be accessed online at

In seeking resident input, Lori Sablas notes, “I felt strongly that we need to ask our workforce about this issue and address it from the bottom-up, as opposed to top-down. It’s an initiative than we can deploy in other areas – such as South Maui, if we find the information we collect is useful.”

The West Side Affordable Housing Survey started from a grass-roots level. My sincere hope is that our combined efforts will result in more of our workforce becoming homeowners, just like my Dad did.

Lori Sablas, cultural specialist and community advocate

Used Car, High Mileage

Used Car, High Mileage

First-place Maui County Regional Science & Engineering Fair Junior Division winners Holden Suzuki and Wilson Chau, Maui Waena Intermediate School STEMworks™ 6th graders, used the scientific method of photometric observations in their award-winning project, “Used Car, High Mileage”. “The purpose of our project was to view the compositions of asteroids through using color, the method commonly used by scientists,” Suzuki and Chau said. “We did this by gathering images of Elon Musk’s cherry-red Tesla convertible that he launched as the payload for the first flight of his new rocket, Falcon Heavy, in February 2018. The upper stage of the Falcon rocket pushed the Tesla car into an elliptical, heliocentric orbit between Earth and Mars.”

Suzuki and Chau explained, “The vehicle, having a known color, was chosen as the test object. We predicted that the vehicle would appear red because we used a method similar to the one scientists use to identify the composition of asteroids. We put data from three different filters into Astrometrica photometry software and got a color that was similar to white.  Although the result wasn’t what we thought it would be, it ended up making us think more. We believe the reason it’s white is that the white booster rocket is still attached and flying with the vehicle. Given that the booster is much larger than the car, the results make sense. In conclusion, we learned that, even when we think differently at first, we have to trust our data. Some next steps would be to figure out how to get the white out of our data.”

Holden and Wilson’s mentor, Dr. J.D. Armstrong, Educational Outreach Specialist, University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, said, “Some people thought there wasn’t really a car up there at all, so we decided to see if we could get some observations to support the claim that it was a car. The first thing that came to mind was to measure the color. This was fun and interesting science. Besides, it might be the real motivation for many of the greatest discoveries in science!”

We are extremely excited to represent Maui District in the Hawaii State Science & Engineering Fair on Oahu, set for April 8-10.

Holden Suzuki and Wilson Chau, Maui Waena 6th graders

The Powerhouse: Conserve Energy, Reduce Costs

The Powerhouse: Conserve Energy, Reduce Costs

Mark Ware and Shauna Ault of Ohm Energy Technologies, Inc., exhibitors at the 2018 Maui Energy Conference, provide the technical acumen and business management for their family-run company. “Maui called us several years ago, prompting us to create a business that would serve the Hawaii community,” said Shauna Ault. “In 2016, Ohm Energy Technologies relocated from Idaho to Hawaii, to further serve a market experiencing high electricity costs. We are making significant impacts in reducing the consumption of electricity, thus reducing the amount of petroleum fuels burned, as well as saving our customers a significant amount of money on their electricity costs. Hawaii has an aggressive energy efficiency promotion policy, with targets of 100 percent renewable sources of generation by the year 2045. Currently, however, Hawaii still generates approximately 60 percent of its electricity by burning petroleum-based fuels.”

Ohm was established in 2014 to facilitate sales and installation of energy efficiency equipment in a variety of markets. Their primary product, The Powerhouse, was developed by an electrician as a prototype in 2002. It was so successful that it was quickly scaled up to small commercial application. Demand from larger facilities followed. Currently designed for commercial and industrial installations, The Powerhouse has reduced electricity bills by 10, 20, and even 30+ percent, depending on existing efficiency and types of equipment.

“In 2017, Ohm collaborated with manufacturers in California and Maine to develop the next generation of Powerhouse technology: a variable-capacitance system that dynamically adjusts to electricity demand, and a digital internet-accessible monitoring system for rapid access to data and control,” Ault explained. “These systems are now installed in an expanded market on Oahu and Maui, maximizing kilowatt reductions while continuing to provide all other benefits of The Powerhouse. Additional technologies we can implement include state-of-the-art LED lighting for commercial and municipal settings, solar LED street lamps, variable-frequency drives, and harmonic distortion control equipment. With this portfolio of energy efficiency solutions, Ohm Energy Technologies is well positioned to solve many of our energy concerns today, and into the future.”

Hawaii has been our strongest market to date; however, The Powerhouse has been installed in over 700 facilities in the U.S. mainland and Canada.

Shauna Ault, Ohm Energy Technologies, Inc.

Shoreline Water Testing Powered by Volunteers

Shoreline Water Testing Powered by Volunteers

A volunteer-based water quality testing program known as Hui O Ka Wai Ola, Association of the Living Waters, recently began expanding its testing from West Maui to South Maui shoreline locations. The project informs residents about how clean the water is at their favorite beaches. It was made possible through a partnership with the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH), the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council (MNMRC), The Nature Conservancy, West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative, and the University of Hawaii Maui College.

“Hui O Ka Wai Ola is the first community-based water quality monitoring program in the state,” said Dr. Kim Falinski, Marine Science Advisor at The Nature Conservancy. “It periodically measures turbidity, a measure of water clarity, and nutrients in near-shore ocean water. Robin Newbold, co-founder and chair of MNMRC noted, “Our goal is to support the DOH and Maui County efforts to improve coastal water quality so that coral reefs and native fish populations thrive, and our residents and visitors are safe. We want to help identify problem areas, so remedial action may be taken to address the pollution as quickly as possible.”

Sofia de la Sota, South Maui Regional Coordinator and team leader, said, “A citizen science program like ours would not be possible without an amazing team of volunteers. More than 20 volunteers have completed intensive training and are ready to start water quality testing.” The team will test several factors: turbidity, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, and others. The test for nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous compounds, can indicate pollution from wastewater run-off from agriculture, landscaping, and golf courses. “Too many nutrients in the water can cause an increase in invasive algae, which is damaging to coral reefs,” de la Sota said. “The resulting data will be used to supplement DOH water quality monitoring on Maui and can be viewed at the Hui o Ka Wai Ola website.” To learn more about Hui O Ka Wai Ola, to donate or to volunteer, visit

During every collection period, the volunteers will also collect samples that will be frozen and shipped to the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology Laboratory on Oahu for nutrient analysis.

Sofia de la Sota, South Maui Regional Coordinator

Maui’s Future Farmers

Maui’s Future Farmers

M’Chelle Aguinaldo, a senior at Lahainaluna High School, was elected and is serving as Secretary of the Hawai’i Chapter of Future Farmers of America (FFA) for 2017-2018. A student-led national organization, FFA is committed to fostering projects that increase awareness of the global importance of agriculture. FFA’s initiative complements Maui Economic Development Board’s (MEDB) vision of achieving a diversified Maui County economy, including agri-tech. Both MEDB and FFA encourage wise management of economic, environmental and human resources in the community, and promote teamwork, citizenship, and volunteerism. They teach that agriculture is more than planting and harvesting—it’s a science, it’s a business, and it’s an art.

“The Lahainaluna High School Agriculture Program’s mission is to help our community grow the next generation of young farmers,” Aguinaldo said. “As this year’s FFA State Secretary, I travel to state and national FFA meetings and assist in work-related activities at Lahainaluna. I also support Maui’s school garden programs with plant donations and other volunteer work.”

Aguinaldo continued, “At Lahainaluna we see a thriving and sustainable Hawaii. We maintain a pono lifestyle by having aloha for all, and by respecting the culture. We need the next generations of farmers. We also need to help drive Hawaii in the direction of becoming sustainable and help keep produce here. We’re working for a better future for Hawaii’s youth and economy.”

Lahainaluna Ag offers a variety of classes. Their facility consists of two classrooms, a shop, a greenhouse, multiple small and large fields, a plant nursery, and a Hawaiian garden. “The curriculum places a high emphasis on giving students as many visual and hands-on learning experiences as possible,” said Aguinaldo “We sell our produce to the community and at local farmers markets, to our school staff, to other Lahaina schools, and to local businesses. We also give back to our community by providing donations of produce and plants to school gardens, homeless shelters, senior housing complexes, and the Maui Food Bank.”

FFA students develop an appreciation for a farming career and other agriculture-related professions such as biologists, chemists, veterinarians, engineers and entrepreneurs.

M’Chelle Aguinaldo, Lahainaluna High School, 12th grade

Feed My Sheep Sustains Body, Mind & Spirit

Feed My Sheep Sustains Body, Mind & Spirit

Maui Economic Development Board applauds the community service of Feed My Sheep (FMS). Serving with integrity and sincerity, this nonprofit makes an immediate impact on the lives of the less fortunate. Bringing positive hope, the many FMS volunteers lift the morale of low-income workers and the unemployed while helping them through rough economic times. “In an effort to make Maui hunger-free, FMS provides about 69,000 half-pound meals a month throughout the island,” said FMS Founder and CEO, Joyce Kawakami. “In the last year we have given food to 3,200 people including working but poor families, seniors on fixed incomes, and homeless men and women. A few moments of emotional support are offered to each person who comes, besides food for their week. We feel blessed to serve so many.”

A unique mobile food distribution program, FMS takes deliveries to designated neighborhoods of need each week. Bags of food are distributed to the needy in five different locations. “Anyone who needs food is welcome to come to one of our many mobile food distributions,” said Operations Director Scott Hopkins. “Our volunteers make FMS such a welcoming place. Plus, many local farmers offer participants a focus on healthier food choices.” For example, Kumu Farms provides FMS with healthy options for both their free distributions and their discounted produce market. They have been a consistent source of nutritious items such as kale, papaya, chard, bananas, arugula, salad greens, beans and fennel.

FMS staff surveyed over 100 people to find out how fresh produce, fruit and vegetables have benefited the participants. “Ninety-six people said that the food they received from FMS improved their health in ways that doctors confirmed,” Hopkins noted. “We documented reduced blood pressure, better heart health, improved mental clarity and increased strength. Through FMS I have seen many people go from their lowest point to a new beginning. That’s what makes it all worthwhile!” FMS is always seeking volunteers for distribution locations in Hana, Lahaina, Wailuku, Kahului, and Kihei. To inquire call (808) 872- 9100.

Through Feed My Sheep I have seen many people go from their lowest point to a new beginning. That’s what makes it all worthwhile!

Scott Hopkins, Feed My Sheep Operations Director

Maui Green & Beautiful

Maui Green & Beautiful

Maui Green & Beautiful (MG&B) is an environmental non-profit that cares for the ‘Ᾱina through preservation, protection, and education. Originally known as the Maui Outdoor Circle, in 2014 it reorganized as MG&B. “Our education curriculum includes proper care and pruning, benefits of trees, protecting our healthy mature trees and teaching the value of trees,” said Elaine Malina, MG&B president. “We have created bridges with, and have earned respect from, the landscape and tree professionals in our community. Some of our recent tree plantings include jacaranda trees along Haleakala Highway with the Eagle Scouts, trees planted in Keopuolani Park in Kahului with the Maui County Arborist Committee, and much more.”

Malina’s love of trees began with a black walnut tree in her childhood backyard in the Chicago suburbs. Her parents used to take her to botanical gardens which evolved into her receiving a degree in Ornamental Horticulture. “I became an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist in 1997 and graduated from the University of Hawaii College Foundation Agricultural Leadership Training Program in 2002.”

MG&B is celebrating Arbor Month with two special events in November. A Kaulunani Grant is allowing them to bring the TreeCircus, an educational tree event, to four Maui schools. “The TreeCircus show lasts almost an hour with non-stop energy and student participation,” Malina said. “The grant is also allowing us to purchase educational material that we will donate to each participating school.”

The 7th Annual Malama the Trees Free Educational Workshop will be held on November 11th. This year, MG&B is honoring the Maui County Exceptional Trees of Wailuku. The event begins at 9am in front of the County Building with an hour-long presentation about tree topics including the Maui County Planting Plan. “We will also discuss tree infrastructure, tree biology, tree planting, and other issues,” said Malina. “After the hour presentation, we will break into small groups with a certified arborist to guide us through Wailuku. We will finish at Kaahumanu Church’s exceptional tree at 12 noon. For more information visit:

We need trees to breathe. Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen through a process called photosynthesis. Trees are cool.

Elaine Melina, President, Maui Green & Beautiful

Fairmont Kea Lani Resort Helps “Clean the World”

Fairmont Kea Lani Resort Helps “Clean the World”

The Fairmont Kea Lani Resort, venue for Maui Economic Development Board’s annual Ke Alahele Fundraiser, is committed to responsible tourism practices and sustainable hotel management. “Our Sustainability Team, created in 2001, is comprised of leaders and colleagues dedicated to “greening” our operations and cultivating an enduring connection to the land and community,” said Rick Texeira, Chair, Fairmont Kea Lani Sustainability Team. “To date, the Sustainability Team has launched over 50 environmental initiatives at the resort, including the installation of over 1,528 solar photovoltaic panels, efforts in support of the critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtle at neighboring White Rock beach, and our sponsored Earth Day community reef clean-ups, to name a few.”

An especially interesting Kea Lani program, in partnership with Clean the World Foundation, Inc., recycles hygiene products, soap and bottled amenities for worldwide distribution to fight hygiene-related illness. “Clean the World takes our unused soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and shower gel and gives them a second life through a global hygiene initiative,” Texeira explained. “The distribution of recycled soap and hygiene products from hotels and resort partners helps millions of people in countries with a high death rate from these illnesses.”

Recycling with Clean the World and other sustainability projects are a great way to achieve corporate social responsibility goals and attract more guests. “The programs increase employee morale and visitors love it as well,” said Texeira. “I’m so proud of the commitment and effort our hotel has shown. Not only are we recycling, we are helping those in need and supporting the health and wellness of others. It is wonderful to see how simple and responsible acts can save so many lives. We look forward to continuing our sustainable movement for many years and are passionate about our efforts to make a difference for people, our communities and the planet.”

Our hotel has contributed to Clean the World’s distribution of soap, amenities, and hygiene kits in 96 countries.

Rick Texeira, Chair, Fairmont Kea Lani Sustainability Team

Rural Energy for America Program: REAP-ing What You Sow

Rural Energy for America Program: REAP-ing What You Sow

MEDB_FMN_HTM_REAP July 20Are you a farmer, rancher, or small business owner interested in saving money on your energy bills? Do you lack the money necessary to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements that will lower your business’s energy costs? If you answered “yes” to both questions, then this MEDB workshop is for you.

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) can provide eligible applicants with guaranteed loans, grants, or a combination loan and grant for qualified projects. During this workshop you will learn about:

  • REAP’s eligible loans and grants
  • Who is eligible to apply
  • Maximum loan and grant amounts
  • Application requirements and deadlines
  • Tips for completing your application
  • One-on-one consultations available with USDA staff following the workshop.

Workshop Presenter:
John Antonio, State Energy Coordinator USDA Rural Development

The workshop is free, and light refreshments will be served. Part of the MEDB Innovation Series, Foundations for Business Success.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016, 1 pm – 4 pm
MEDB’s Malcolm Center
1305 N. Holopono Street, Suite 5
Kihei, HI 96753