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Chamber urges businesses to profit from APEC

Opportunities abound for isle companies that want to engage leaders from across the region

By Allison Schaefers

LAST UPDATED: 6:58 p.m. HST, Oct 20, 2011

Hawaii businesses still can get involved in the coming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, bringing economic benefit to themselves and to the state and bolstering the quality of the high-level event.

That was one of the most important messages at the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii's 116th annual membership luncheon Thursday, whose theme, "Transcending Boundaries — Hawaii's Appearance on the Global Stage," centered around how the isles could best capitalize on APEC, which is just four months out.

"This will be our moment in the sun as we position Hawaii as more than a world-class destination. This will be our time to shine as we position Hawaii as a gathering place to conduct business," said U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye in a video recorded for the luncheon.

Economic and relationship-building opportunities will abound for Hawaii when the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting brings the heads of state from 21 member economies to Honolulu on Nov. 12 and 13. That meeting and the four events leading up to it, starting with the Nov. 7 APEC Business Advisory Council meeting, could bring approximately 20,000 attendees to the isles, including finance ministers, business leaders and media representatives.

Hawaii, which exports goods and services to Asia, stands to benefit greatly from APEC's business opportunities, said Michael W. Michalak, former U.S. ambassador to Vietnam (2007-2011).

"More than any other state, Hawaii should be very conscious of the Asia-Pacific region and, within that, APEC," said Michalak, senior adviser to the Private Sector Host Committee for APEC 2011.

Hawaii's APEC host committee has created opportunities for select Hawaii businesses to spotlight their goods and services and interact with world decision makers, said Peter Ho, APEC Hawaii Host Committee chairman.

"We are working hard to showcase our community and Hawaii as positively as possible," Ho said.

For instance, instead of a closing gala, APEC delegates will be given dining vouchers to go spend money in Waikiki, Michalak said.

"There are a number of ways that we are working with your host committee to try to integrate programs," he said.

Ho said business opportunities are concentrated around key Hawaii APEC themes such as clean energy; sky, ocean and earth sciences; health and life sciences; and meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions.

About 118 Hawaii businesses are vying to be selected as participants in the APEC Business Innovation Showcase, said Jim Tollefson, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii and a member of the APEC Hawaii Host Committee. Only five will be selected, one from each county and one statewide.

"Our goal is to announce the winners of the showcase on Sept. 1. They will then be showcased in virtual displays and other displays during APEC week," Tollefson said.

In addition, Tollefson said that select members of Hawaii's business community will have the chance to participate in the Asia-Pacific Business Symposium, a weeklong series of workshops held in conjunction with APEC Leaders' Week.

The Symposium, sponsored by Pacific Basin Economic Council and the East-West Center and supported by the APEC Business Advisory Council, will provide an opportunity for business leaders from around the Asia-Pacific region to discuss topics such as trade and sustainability, he said.

Interested individuals are invited to apply for a symposium invitation beginning Aug. 1. More information is available at the event's website,

The APEC 2011 Hawaii Host Committee also has put out various calls for event vendors and volunteers. Honolulu companies StarrTech Interactive and Stryker Weiner & Yokota and Info Grafik are among the first businesses to get APEC contracts. APEC Hawaii is still seeking vendors to supply and showcase their products or services for distribution in 11,000 hospitality gift bags to be given to government officials, business leaders and global media representatives during the event, Ho said.

For more information about this opportunity or others, visit the APEC Hawaii website,

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