Honolulu County, Hawaii
The Gateway to Hawaii
Business View Magazine interviews Rick Blangiardi, Mayor of Honolulu, for our focus on the Hawaii Public Sector
Encompassing the magical state capital city of Honolulu and the surrounding island of O’ahu, Honolulu County is Hawaii’s gateway to tourism, business, culture, nature, adventure, and more. Consolidated as a U.S state in 1959, the city-county lives by their motto Ha’aheo No ‘O Honolulu: Honolulu Pride.
Business View Magazine is joined by 15th Mayor of Honolulu, Mr. Rick Blangiardi, who gained his position in 2021. Mr. Blangiardi states their mission as: “To fulfill the responsibility of the City and County of Honolulu to provide core City services to its residents and visitors alike with safe, accessible, well-maintained public facilities, exceptional customer service, fiscal stewardship of tax dollars, and quality and comprehensive programs for all.”
Mr Blangiardi begins, “We are the only island state in the United States, and one of the most geographically isolated populations in the world. Our island is blessed with incredible natural beauty and zest for life. Visitors and residents alike come for the beauty, but they stay for the people. We are a culturally diverse place with a great legacy and lineage of Native Hawaiian culture, but we have people of every ethnicity you could imagine living, working, and thriving here. It’s not utopia, not nirvana, but it is an incredible melting pot of culture and heritage.”
Major economic drivers include tourism and military historically, but recent developments thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed Honolulu to look locally for economic growth. Opportunities in the clean energy sector, Mr. Blangiardi says, are of particular interest. “We have dedicated a lot of time to building on our assets in clean energy. Hawaii is actually a national leader in clean energy laws legislation, and we expect to be completely void of fossil fuels by 2045. This was a very ambitious undertaking that was signed into law not that many years ago, but we’re well underway with electrification of vehicles, solar power, hydro power, wind power, you name it. We are afforded the opportunity to innovate, given the fact that we’re an island state, to actually be a beta site for some of this stuff, because we have great sun, wind, ocean, agriculture… It’s a perfect environment for renewables.
“Healthcare is another sector we excel in. We have amazing longevity in our residents, but it also means we have an aging population, so our future movements in the health space will need to reflect that. We also service the greater Pacific through our Shriners Children’s Hospital; people fly here from other islands in Oceania for treatment. We are committed to furthering food sustainability and renewable agriculture. We’re really focused on climate change issues, and rightfully so – 98% of our food is imported, so we need to become more food secure. Now, we are still going to be dependent on imports to some extent because we only have so much land. At one time, Hawaii was primarily an agricultural economy, mostly in exports of sugarcane and pineapple. Those businesses shifted over time to other sectors thanks to labour costs and land demand for housing development. We really want to see a resurgence in strong agricultural players on our home turf.
“Finally, we have a great film production industry, thanks to our stunning natural environment. We even had productions running throughout COVID-19 – with restrictions in place, of course. Many, many movies have been shot here, including the Jurassic Park franchise, and we have longstanding TV shows like NCIS, Hawaii Five-O, etc. When directors need to film in a tropical paradise or jungle setting, Hawaii is the place they go.”
The Office of the Mayor is dedicated to making the island of O’ahu a great place to live, work, and play. Community outreach is important to ensure the younger generation stays local, rather than moving to the mainland for work and education opportunities. Aged care is a key priority, Mr. Blangiardi says. “In many cases people have worked hard their whole lives to send their kids to college, whether it’s our University of Hawaii or the mainland. The thing is young people who move out of state tend to stay there. They meet people, start their careers, get married… So often, their parents grow older without a geographically present support network. Now, we are working hard to get them to remain local, but for those who don’t, we want to make sure their parents can age gracefully in the best facilities with world-class care.”
Honolulu County is supported by a number of local and interstate collaborators that Mr. Blangiardi would like to mention in thanks. “The people that work in our wonderful county are doing so at very high levels, and really, they could be working anywhere, but they choose to live and work here in Honolulu because they have a true love of place and the drive to make things better. Every endeavor is a personal one, and they all present unique challenges that need to be faced as a collective. So as our government, community, and business leaders come together, it’s all about striving for the common good, solving problems, and working towards likeminded goals. It’s really quite a special and exhilarating environment to be in. Each and every one of them has my gratitude, and no doubt the gratitude of all of our Honolulu locals.”
Honolulu County is focused on modernization moving forward in order to excel in regenerative industries and continue rebuilding local sectors affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Blangiardi concludes, “We are especially excited for the next wave of responsible tourism, which we believe will see a global influx of tourist coming to Honolulu and wider Hawaii to celebrate our cultural heritage and identity. It is our pleasure and honour to be able to open up our island to them and give them a glimpse of the tropical island dream – our County provides the vacation of a lifetime. We want to see their love for our island generate new returns for our economy, which will assist our endeavours in technology, energy, healthcare, entertainment, agriculture, business, and more.”
AT A GLANCE
Honolulu County, Hawaii
What: County including Honolulu City and the island of Oahu
Where: The city-county is headed by Honolulu, the state’s capital city on the stunning Southern shores of Oahu