Small business and employment in Hawaii are expected to get a boost by a $13 million grant awarded to the state by the federal government.
"We are going to make full use of every dollar of this $13 million," Gov. Neil Abercrombie said Wednesday at a news conference. "We said we’d reach out for federal dollars to leverage here in the private sector … to give confidence to investors that Hawaii’s going to move forward."
The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s Hawaii Strategic Development Corp. will lead an effort to secure 10-to-1 matching funds over seven years from large private investors and venture capitalists that combined would bring new funding of $130 million to Hawaii small businesses.
The grant stemmed from the federal Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, signed into law in September by President Barack Obama.
Abercrombie said Hawaii’s high-tech sector has been a common target for large investment so far, but that the $13 million will "enable us to get past that into small business of every size and kind," with an eye toward the state’s future needs. "The two most pressing ones from my point of view right now … will be in energy and food security, and support for small-biz transportation, etc."
The retail, construction and housing sectors are not eligible, according to HSDC Executive Director Carl Fooks, because "there was a feeling that those sectors had access to capital already."
HSDC’s role won’t be to choose winning applicants, but rather to facilitate introductions between companies seeking funding and appropriate sources of funding in a way that will maximize successful job creation, he said.
An earlier HSDC investment nurtured Hawaii-based CBI Polymers LLC, which produces DeconGel brush-on or spray-on polymers for radioactive or chemical and oil and grease cleanup. The applied polymers peel off for disposal, and the company has donated $250,000 worth of the product and technical services toward cleanup around the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.
CBI Polymers is among seven companies "started in Hawaii that will have very substantial global impact," said Hank Wuh, founder and CEO. Another of his companies plans a surgery center that will perform 4,000 to 5,000 artificial cornea procedures each year.
The administration soon will announce how small businesses can apply for funding.