Archive for August, 2010

A High-Tech Renaissance of Agriculture in Hawaii

August 31st, 2010

ThinkTech Hawaii

We had a great time at the ThinkTech-HVCA Recovery and Transformation program at the Plaza Club last Wednesday. If you didn’t make it, don’t despair – we’re posting the video on

So far we’ve posted Dick Gushman’s now famous wakeup keynote about the incredible transitions now going on in the leadership of our state, the book report by Craig Howes and Jon Osorio regarding their new book of essays called “The Value of Hawaii,” and the blockbuster Vision Oanel featuring Robbie Alm of HECO as moderator, with Robin Campaniano of Ulupono Initiative, Peter Ho of Bank of Hawaii, Janet Liang of Kaiser Permanente and Billy Kenoi, Mayor of the Big Island, who was a great hit.

We’ll post the videos of the other panels in the next few days, and soon enough you can see it all on Olelo will also be broadcasting its video of the program on Channel 54 over the next few weeks. All this documenting is absolutely appropriate in view of the many remarkable statements that were made. The conversation isn’t over, though, and we’ll be doing video interviews of the speakers and panelists to follow up with their thinking re the issues they discussed at the program.

Now that that’s done, it’s time to move on to our next ThinkTech-HVCA program. This time it’ll be at Laniakea, the Women’s “Y” on Richards Street. It’ll be another ambitious half-day program (the only way we can cover the ground in sufficient detail and depth) on Thursday, October 28th. The planning committee for the program is already at work identifying and approaching the panelists, moderators and speakers, and from all appearances this is going to be another interesting and important program.

What’s it about? We’re calling it “Hawaii’s High Tech Renaissance in Agriculture.” We started by calling it High Tech Agriculture in Hawaii, but yesterday, at the Hawaii News Now debate between Neil and Mufi (which it seemed to me was won handily by Neil), Neil referred to a “renaissance” of agriculture taking place in Hawaii. I thought this word was exactly right and what we want to capture, so we changed the name of the program Hawaii’s High Tech Renaissance in Agriculture in the notion that a renaissance is already taking place in agriculture in Hawaii and that high tech is a clear driver.

Yes, this is related to the Recovery and Transformation program; it is a transformation of our economy in its own right, a historic process already in play which will hopefully lead to meaningful diversification of an otherwise moribund economy. This is all good news, but it has to be disseminated around the state, so the process can be incentivized and encouraged. That’s why we’re doing the program.

The dream of course is to offer every family in Hawaii the opportunity of owning and successfully operating a farm. All this can be made possible with modern growing technologies, all of which are available at UH Manoa, the Hawaii Farm Bureau and the Hawaii Agricultural Research Center in Aiea, to name a few. New growing technologies, seed, planting and harvesting, can make farming much easier than ever before and can allow local families to earn a decent living and send their kids to college.

The threshold problem, which we need to discuss in detail at the program, is that these young families can’t get land to start their farms. Generally speaking, big landowners won’t sell or provide long term leases to farmers, so would-be farmers don’t have a property interest they can take to the bank and arrange financing for equipment, seed and the like. No land, no financing. No financing, no seed. No seed, no farm. It’s that simple, and it starts out, as so many things do in Hawaii, with the land. It’s a shame on us all that most big landowners don’t help or in any way encourage our young farmers. Why don’t they see how important this is? By holding on to the land, they’re killing a generation of middle class farmers. It’s not easy to start a business or a farm, but it’s really hard without land or financing.

What to do about this. Even if the big landowners don’t want to support the renaissance of farming, hopefully, the legislature will recognize how important this can be and will fashion some meaningful incentives to farmers, and perhaps some disincentives to large landowners who would otherwise prefer to let the land lie fallow. Perhaps it will come up in the next session. Wouldn’t that be great.

Anyway, this program on October 28th is bound and determined to raise these issues and see if we can’t get people to wake up to the huge benefit agriculture can mean for the state. Jobs, iInvestment, local fresh food (instead of spending $6 billion for not so fresh food shipped in from elsewhere). But it’s more than that, it’s the young people making their life on the land, with their families. Hawaii has a great legacy of agriculture and there is no good reason at all preventing us from returning to the land and feeding our state on the bounty of the land. On the other side of it, not doing that is an embarrassing squander of our unique resources, prospects and workforce. What a shame. Let’s do something.

So we’ll have the Farm Bureau and the Crop Improvement Association at the program. We’ll have farmers and scientists tell us about new farm technology and what it can do for us. We’ll have investors, bankers and capitalists tell us about the capital problems and the possibility for funding farm operations in Hawaii. And we’ll have farmers, talking about what they do every day and how they feel about the existing agricultural structures in our the state and what can be done to improve and expand them to where we can eat local fresh tasty and cheap every day of the week, where our restaurants can provide us with local fresh taste and nutrition unequaled anywhere. It’s not so hard, and it’s doable right here.

Want to try your hand in farming? Want to get into the industry or help the industry get going? Do you care about diversification and how the state is doing in this Great Recession and what it needs to do to become self sufficient and survive in the future? Well, then you should save the date, October 28th, and sign up when the flyers come around. And come around they will – your Renaissance committee is working hard to bring this one to you. Do you have questions? Write to and I’ll be happy to tell you the status of our planning and what you can expect at and from the program.

As was evident at the debate, there’s a new freshness in the air, a new Hawaii patriotism coming up around us. Somehow the renaissance of local agriculture is part of it. We can’t afford to miss this wave. It may be the last time we can go back to the future. This is a special intersection of tech, diversification, respect for the environment and good living. It can bring us together and allow us to “Stand up Hawaii.” We can’t afford to miss that, and you can’t afford to miss the Renaissance program on October 28th.

Posted in 1 | Comments Off

The Great 2009-2010 Hawaii Brain Drain

August 19th, 2010

ThinkTech Hawaii

Please treat this as a post from a visiting blogger. The following article was originally posted by Daniel Leuck on on August 18, 2010 at 8:30pm. I thought it was so important, and troubling, that I asked him if I could adopt and post it on my ThinkTech blog. He agreed, and so here it is.

"At recent developer events, including today's UX Design Meetup, the effect of the great 2009-2010 Hawaii brain drain was readily apparent. Seth Ladd, Anthony Eden, Sam Joseph, Truman Leung, Ken Mayer, David Neely, Sherwin Gao, Seri Lee, Gabe Morris, Alex Salkever, Laurence Lee...this is just a handful of people I know personally. The list of talented people who have left or will soon be leaving over this very short period of time is truly depressing.

"As Hawaii tech companies collapse, the engineers and designers aren't looking locally for new jobs. They are leaving our state, and it won't be easy to get them back. If we can't retain talented developers and creative personalities in our state the innovation economy is in serious trouble (not that this is news to anyone in the industry.) We have to figure out a way to turn this around.

"I'm an optimistic person by nature. I believe we can still build an innovation economy in Hawaii, but we need to learn from our mistakes, identify our strengths, apply a healthy dose of pragmatism and a whole lot of elbow grease. The government isn't going to solve this problem for us. Its up to entrepreneurs and tech business leaders to come up with a plan for sustainable growth of a uniquely Hawaiian innovation economy."

Dan Leuck

Posted in 1 | Comments Off

Recovery is only a week away

August 17th, 2010

ThinkTech Hawaii

Everything reminds me of the economy these days. Every day’s paper brings news on both sides – yes, it’s up, no it’s down. Yes we’re doing well, no we’re not. The reality is that we’re in transition as well as confusion. China just topped Japan as number 2 economy. Will another resort top Hawaii? Will another industry top yours? Probably. Remember, we’re in transition.

The legislature can study the metaphysics of leaf blowers until the cows come home, but we all know that the economy is the most important issue there and everywhere in the state. Sorry, but everything else really does take second place, and we’d better get familiar with what’s going on in the economy. We’re at a turning point, and a tipping point. Complacency is not an option.

In this election year, with so many candidates, there’s no political issue that comes even close in importance. The candidates that don’t talk about it, and don’t give us some good ideas and plans about it, can’t be serious. But even then, you can bet there will be plenty of head in the sand.

Some say the recession ended in July 2009, and they keep saying that even though many reliable indicators are to the contrary. People advocate for self-interest and take emotional and even ideological positions on the economy. Are we rational about this? Are we using our best skills and practices to deal with the most important and threatening sea change of our generation?

The bottom line is that, however we got here, we’re in trouble. There are all kinds of worrisome signs out there, and we’re really not doing anything about it. Just like the homeless, we move the issues around the board and never advance on the problem. That’s why ThinkTech and its friends have set up this program – to drill down and see what’s under the hood of our economy.

So ThinkTech and its friends are working hard on an ambitious half-day four-panel program called Recovery + Transformation, otherwise known as Straight Talk on Rebuilding our Troubled Economy. It’s scheduled for next Wednesday, August 25th, at the Plaza Club.

If you care about the Hawaii economy and its future, and our future, you should come and participate in the discussion. You could also do us a favor and circulate the following email to your friends and suggest they check it out and sign up on Thanks.

You could also suggest that they look at the videos we’ve posted on to define and foment discussion at and about the program. See these links for those videos:

A discussion with Steve Petranik, editor of Hawaii Business and Honolulu Magazine. He’s a panelist on the “Challenges” panel to discuss the role and obligation of the media in educating the public on the economy. Click here for the video.

A second discussion with Steve Petranik on the special takeaways we hope to provide those who attend. Click here for the video. We want this program to make a difference going forward.

ThinkTech Hawaii

A discussion with Yuka Nagashima, CEO of the State’s High Tech Development Corporation. She’s a long-time friend of ThinkTech and a sponsor of this and other ThinkTech programs. Click here for the video.

A discussion with Neal Milner, political science professor and popular political commentator. He’s a panelist on the “Best Practices” panel. He and I talked about our expectations for the program. Click here for that video. And he appeared with Howard Dicus on Hawaii News Now last week. Click here for the video. Howard is also the moderator of the “Planning” panel.

And we had a discussion with Mary Fastenau of Starr-Tech and Anthology Marketing. She’s the moderator of the “Challenges” panel. Click here for the video, which is one of my favorites.

Finally, we had a discussion with Craig Howes and Jon Osorio about their new book, “The Value of Hawaii,” which includes essays on many of the same subjects. Craig and Jon are giving a “Book Report” at the program. Click here for the video.

All in all, you can see there’s plenty of excitement about the program among its organizers, speakers, moderators, panelists and the public. We’ve sent out a Call for Papers, and papers are flooding in. Everyone wants to have their say about the problems we have with our economy and what we can do about it. Come and hear the best of these papers presented.

All together, we have some 30 speakers, moderators and panelists. It’s a powerful lineup, with a wakeup keynote, four blue-ribbon panels and the book report, to say nothing about breakfast lunch and networking. How can you go wrong? Check out the flyer on

Ok, here’s our last email on the subject, including our Last Call for Papers, replete with links to the flyer and signup forms. Hope you can all be there. Let’s fill the room with good ideas.


August 25 is only a week away!

Do you understand where Hawaii's economy is going? Join Robbie Alm (HECO), Robin Campaniano (Ulupono Initative), Peter Ho (Bank of Hawaii), Billy Kenoi (Mayor of the Big Island), Janet Liang (Kaiser Permanente) and more than 20 other blue ribbon speakers at the Plaza Club on August 25th to find out.

"RECOVERY+TRANSFORMATION" - August 25th, Straight Talk about Rebuilding our Troubled Economy


Click for Program Flyer

ThinkTech and friends are concerned about Hawaii's economy and how little we understand it. So much of the news we get about our economy is anecdotal. It's up, it's down, and we don't really know what to make of it going forward. We're in a protracted recession and it's uncertain if tourism has the resilience to get us through.

This is made more complex by the fact that tourism decisions are made elsewhere and dictated by events over which we have no control. What can we do to make our economy more productive and to ameliorate our exposure to global downturn?

This is a time when Hawaii has to figure itself out and determine what it will be in the 21st Century, when investment is scarce and resorts are vying for attention. In the meantime, how will the recession undermine our economy? How will our quality of life be reshaped? We’re at a turning point, and the stakes are high.

We need to apply our best critical thinking to these sea changes. That's why we've organized Recovery+Transformation - to get the best minds to tell us what's going on, to do an x-ray analysis of the economic matrix of our state and see things clearly enough to plan our future.

Our program flyer is attached, and as you can see our speakers are formidable. This could be the most important and useful conference you've attended in a long time. Come and join us for a fast-moving discussion, breakfast through lunch, at the

The Plaza Club on Wednesday, August 25th, 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Register at or at

Sign up soon - space is limited, and the future is upon us.

* * * *


Get your $.02 in on Hawaii's economy....

We've had a number of requests by people wishing to participate in the various panels of our Recovery and Transformation program on Wednesday, August 25th. ThinkTech and HVCA are therefore Calling for Papers dealing with the subject of the conference: The Recovery and Transformation of Hawaii’s Economy. Straight talk is a requirement.

These papers will be disseminated among the speakers, sponsors and attendees at the program. The author of the most thoughtful paper will be given five minutes to present that paper at an appropriate point during the program. The papers will also be submitted to the media for possible publication.

A paper may have multiple authors but each one should be identified by name, phone and email. Authors should express their views on at least one of the following questions:
1. How do I know a good economy when I see one?
2. What are the obstacles to building a better economy in Hawaii?
3. What techniques should be used to evaluate our economy?
4. What action points should be included in a plan for recovery?
5. What can each of us do to insure the success of such a plan?
6. What are the stakes – what will happen to us without a plan?

Papers should be between 250 and 500 words and emailed in pdf format to Susan Horowitz at by August 23rd. If you have questions about the content or submission of your paper, contact Jay Fidell at or (808) 780-9254.

Click to see the flyer for the program. You may sign up to attend the program at Thanks for your interest and participation in Recovery and Transformation and for your support of the program.

See you there,

Jay Fidell
ThinkTech Hawaii

Posted in 1 | Comments Off

Seitz Attack on Kate Leonard completely inappropriate

August 1st, 2010

ThinkTech Hawaii

Eric Seitz’ overblown opposition to Supreme Court nominee Kate Leonard should not have been dignified by an article reporting his views to the Bar Association without covering the views of other lawyers on the subject.

On a mission, he said he spoke with 40 people who had “concerns” about Kate Leonard’s appointment, not because she isn’t a brilliant lawyer and judge, but because she doesn’t have “administrative experience.” At 15 minutes per conversation, that would have been 10 hours of talk within only days after the nomination. I don’t believe it, particularly since he declined to identify them.

This “administrative experience” test comes out of the blue. Was Ron Moon judged on this? He had no administrative experience. He was a law partner, as was Kate, and a judge, as was Kate, and then appointed to Chief Justice, as was Kate. He managed to manage, and did fine on OJT. So can Kate.

John Roberts had no administrative experience when he was appointed to the Supreme Court. In fact, there were only two Chief Justices who did have any significant administrative experience; Earl Warren, who had been Governor of California, and William Howard Taft, who had been president. They’re the exception.

A chief justice, at the core of it, must be a really good judge. We want a visionary jurist, not a manager. Under Ron Moon, the judiciary has full access to professional managers, and has been managed with professional managers for years, just as many law firms are now managed by non-lawyer managers.

As a partner at Carlsmith, Kate was involved in law firm administration. But the real issue is not whether she has administrative experience – it’s whether she has the intellect to learn it on the job, like Ron Moon. Of course she does. Kate Leonard is really bright, an outstanding lawyer, passionate and concerned about the law and the community. She was an excellent litigator, fair-minded, analytical and courageous. I’ve been in court with her and can attest to that.

There’s nothing in Seitz’s strained opposition that should affect Kate Leonard’s confirmation. Sure, some people would like to keep the seat empty until Linda Lingle is gone, but that’s no reason to play sport politics. Kate Leonard is a quality candidate, among the best we’ve seen. She should be confirmed with honor and appreciation, not with red-herring reports like the one on Tuesday.

Anyone in the Judicial Selection Commission can tell you how hard it is to get good candidates for judicial posts. No one wants to run the gauntlet against this kind of inappropriate attack. So let’s take the high road. Kate Leonard is eminently qualified. Let’s confirm her and have the court get on with its work.

Posted in 1 | Comments Off