Since 1982, the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) has been working with businesses, government, educators, and community leaders to support the development of a robust and balanced economy that benefits the people of Maui County.
Our work toward this goal falls under three pillars:
Support new and established businesses in sectors that help diversify our economy
Develop a skilled workforce of residents while working toward economic equity
Bring diverse groups together to find common ground, collaborate, and move our community forward
MEDB’s focus has shifted over the decades. In the early days, it was all about expanding Maui’s economy beyond tourism, pineapple, and sugarcane. In the 1990s, “high tech” was the buzzword, and we worked to attract businesses based in new technologies. Today, the innovation sector overlaps with every industry in our economy, making it more critical than ever that our residents have the skills and the entrepreneurial mindset to access these opportunities.
We have developed a wide-ranging slate of programs to advance our mission, from K-12 STEM education for our youth; to mentorship and job placement for young professionals; to technical assistance, coaching, and hands-on support for growing businesses; to surveys and focus group research used to inform community decision-making; to successful annual conferences. As a nonprofit organization, we extend the reach of our partners, funders, and stakeholders, helping them to achieve their objectives. Our programs touch every island in Maui County (Maui, Molokai, and Lanai) and beyond.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, our focus shifted once again. We moved quickly to help our economy and local businesses respond to the crisis and stay safe with information and guidance on government relief programs, webinars to support businesses in transition, virtual education, and online networking opportunities.
One thing that has not changed over the years is MEDB’s commitment to developing an economy that truly benefits our community. We believe economic growth is about more than just creating jobs: it is also about safeguarding our natural environment, honoring Native Hawaiian values and our diversity of cultures, and promoting economic equity, where everyone gets an opportunity to benefit.
Just as our islands’ diverse people make up one Maui County, our wide variety of programs and services make up one MEDB. Please learn more about what we do and consider joining us to become part of our work for a brighter future.
We envision lives fulfilled in a vibrant economy.
We lead and inspire innovation in business, education, and our community.
- economic opportunity for all
- lifelong learning
- respect and collaboration
- broad-based community engagement
- cultural traditions
- stewardship of the environment
- global relationships
“MEDB is the one stop place to find out about economic development on Maui County!.”
board of directors
Saedene Ota (Chair)
Tiare Martin (Vice-Chair)
Robert Kawahara (Treasurer)
Curtis Tom (Secretary)
J. Scott Meidell
Lisa A. Tomihama
Rick W. Volner Jr.
Leslie Wilkins, President & CEO
Lavel Brito, Senior Accountant
Michelle Cocca, Finance Director
Christina Pierce, Executive Assistant
Jessica Salva, Accounting Clerk
Giel Tolentino, Admin Assistant
Gina Villamor, Accounting Clerk
Frank De Rego, Jr., MA, MS, Director of Business Development Projects
Amber Hardwick, Program Manager
John Harrisson, Project Director
Annette Lynch, Program Manager
Daron Nishimoto, Business Development Director
Sandy Ryan, Program Director
Leilani Ventura, Project Manager
Britney James, Agriculture Program Specialist
Jaime Kahoohanohano, Program Specialist
Anna Sikkink, Computer Science Program Specialist
Katie Taladay, Director of Education and Workforce Development
U’ilani Lima, Education Coordinator
Dav Yuan, Education Coordinator
annual highlights 2001 - present
frequently asked questions
What is MEDB?
MEDB, the acronym for Maui Economic Development Board, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. It was established in 1982 to initially focus on diversifying Maui’s economy. At the time of MEDB’s formation, Maui’s economy was dependent on agriculture and tourism, both of which were vulnerable to forces beyond the community’s control. MEDB’s mission now involves taking innovative actions that strengthen existing industry as well as diversifying through new opportunities.
What prompted MEDB’s creation?
A conference on Maui’s economic future, held over 40 years ago, attracted the participation of Maui’s elected, business, and community leaders. They explored approaches Maui could take to strengthen its economy. Through presentations and workshops, the conferees determined that Maui’s economic future would benefit by diversifying into the high technology arena.
It was believed that the high tech industry would create significant and rewarding job opportunities and an incentive for Maui’s youth to return home. The participants stressed the importance of developing the infrastructure needed to support high tech activity already in Maui and to attract high tech companies to locate to Maui. The conference concluded that the greatest likelihood of success in pursuing this mission was to create an institution whose focus would be assisting the County with pursuing this high tech future. Thus, MEDB was formed.
Does MEDB have a particular role in economic development in Maui?
MEDB remains focused on diversifying Maui’s economy, but over the years has expanded its activities to include support for new and existing businesses and for the infrastructure necessary to ensure a strong economy. To assist in these endeavors, MEDB encourages socially responsible investment in Maui.
Are there other EDBs in Hawaii?
Yes. While each county in the state has an Economic Development Board, MEDB was the first to be organized. MEDB works closely and collaboratively with its counterparts on the neighbor islands. The EDBs have also formed a statewide nonprofit called the Economic Development Alliance of Hawaii to expand their collaborative efforts.
Do all Hawaii EDBs do the same thing?
All of the EDBs have a similar mission: to support economic development in their communities. All are not-for-profit and all work to develop appropriate programs and projects for their counties. As community-based organizations, all EDBs understand the needs and desires of their respective communities and the importance of working with the broadest base of the population within each community. This understanding is core to the demonstrated success of each of the EDBs.
Are the EDBs independent of each other or do they work together?
Each EDB is an independent nonprofit corporation with its own Board of Directors and staff. Over the years, the EDBs have worked to support one another and to build economic stability statewide. In 1998, the EDBs formally created the Economic Development Alliance of Hawaii (EDAH). Through this new entity, the EDBs work collaboratively on projects that can positively impact both their counties and the state.
Who funds MEDB?
Over the years, MEDB has received local, state, and federal funding. It has also received funding from private businesses, foundations, and individuals. More than 90% of MEDB’s annual budget is derived from funds restricted to the development, implementation, or maintenance of specific “projects.” Less than 10% of the funding is non-restricted. Nonrestrictive funding comes primarily from donations and membership contributions.
Is MEDB a government agency?
No. MEDB is a private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. It is not a government agency. Some of MEDB’s projects have received funding from the county, state, and federal governments.
How is MEDB governed? Who makes decisions about the work that MEDB does?
MEDB is led by a capable, diverse, and professional Board of Directors, comprised of business leaders of small and large companies, educators, nonprofit managers, professionals, and representatives of the public sector. The Board is responsible for the fiscal solvency, policies and programs of the organization. The Board sets the goals of the agency and reviews the progress on various activities. Staff, under the guidance of a President/Chief Executive Officer, handles the day-to-day decisions which are carefully determined to meet the organization’s mission and long range plan.
What has MEDB accomplished?
Since 1982, MEDB has spurred numerous initiatives that have affected the lives of Maui residents and supported Maui’s businesses. Some examples of MEDB’s work include:
- Partnering role in creation of Maui Research and Technology Park
- Development of and continuing program management of the Maui Research and Technology Center, an incubator facility for attracting and housing start up and phase in businesses
- Creation of the Business Research Library and the annual Maui County Data Book
- Maui SEED (Science for Early Educational Development), a program that encourages math and science interests of our school children
- Maui High Performance Computing Center
- High Tech Maui marketing campaign for business development and awareness through events, publicity and tools
- Economic Literacy initiatives for youth and for adults
- Women In Technology project to encourage women and girls into math, science, engineering and technology education and careers
- AMOS Technical Conference series on laser propagation and radar, imaging, astronomy, small and autonomous telescope systems, adaptive optics, high performance computing and orbital debris
- Launching Project EAST, a project-based, lab-based curriculum
- Tech Careers series to orient high school students with available internships and future job opportunities
- Spearheading Focus Maui Nui, a community visioning process that reached over 1,700 residents in Maui County
What is High Tech Maui and how is it related to MEDB?
High Tech Maui is a program created by MEDB to promote our community’s interest in developing a high technology industry on Maui. In collaboration with other partners who share the vision of High Tech Maui, MEDB regularly showcases Maui’s scientific and technological resources and potential. The partners utilize a variety of tools to market High Tech Maui including the quarterly High Tech Maui newsletter, a video on “The Business Side of Paradise,” a meeting attraction program, special events, presentations, and one-on-one meetings.
Does MEDB own the Maui Research and Technology Park (MRTP)?
No. The Maui R & T Partners, the developer of the Park, owns the MRTP. The partnership has its own staff and collaborates with MEDB and other entities to promote the continued development of the Park and Maui’s emerging technology industry through ongoing marketing efforts of the High Tech Maui campaign.
Does MEDB own the Maui Research and Technology Center (MRTC)?
No. The MRTC is a state-owned facility, under the High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC). MEDB worked closely with state legislators to secure funding to create the Center, which houses numerous start-up technology businesses and a communications center.