Revitalized marinas could lead to jobs

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin 03/01/03)
By Ray Pendleton

After my Water Ways column on Senate Bill 1585 and House Bill 1589 a couple of weeks ago, the e-mail started rolling in.

"If these bond measures pass," one reader asked, "shouldn't the capital improvements they fund be more evenly spread over all of the state's small boat harbors?

Another reader even questioned whether there weren't more important projects in Hawai`i that needed funding, such as schools and highways.

Regarding the first question, my sense is that while not every state marina was mentioned in these bills, the funding they can begin to provide is at least a giant step in the right direction.

True, virtually every recreational boating facility in the state has been horribly neglected over the years, but you've got to start somewhere. Why not quickly improve the marinas that will pay the biggest dividends, like the Ala Wai or Lahaina harbor, and then move on to the others as time and money permits?

As to the rationale for selling general obligation bonds to fund marina improvements, rather than for other projects in the community that need funding, I doubt that one negates the other. And I also believe the importance of well maintained recreational boating facilities can often be underestimated.

In a recent report in Marina Dock Age magazine, the Marina Committee of the International Council of Marine Industry Associations documented a number of significant benefits communities receive from marina developments.

To begin with, it points out that not only do marinas provide jobs and income to their immediate waterfront communities, but they can also be a great boon to a region's tourism.

The symbiotic relationship between the tourist industry and the charter boat operations in Kewalo Basin or Lahaina Harbor come to mind. Better yet, try to imagine Kailua-Kona without its fleet of sportfishers in Honokohau Harbor ready to take anglers out to catch the big one. My guess is there would be a lot fewer businesses on the Kona Coast without them.

"From increased tax revenues, to job creation, to added business for local restaurants, shops and tourist attractions," the report reads, "there are few aspects of an economy that don't benefit from the presence of a successful marina. (The operative word here seems to be "successful.")

"In some extreme cases," it adds, "what have seemed to be hopeless, blighted waterfront areas have been revitalized by the introduction of a marina."

To support this point, the report notes that in the U.S., studies indicate that marinas generate an average of about one-third of a job per berth. This means that a 200-slip marina could provide more than 60 jobs and a payroll of more than $1 million per year.

Do you suppose it would be reasonable for us to use those figures for the Ala Wai's 700-plus berths and conclude it could -- if successfully operated -- generate jobs for more than 200 people and a payroll more than $11 million a year?

If so, then the Ala Wai's $4.5 million portion of the proposed bond issue in SB 1585 and HB 1589 would seem to be cost-effective indeed.

If you agree, you might want to let your state legislator know.

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