Businesses find “Hidden Gems” during a MEDB workshop

Jul 15, 2016

For many businesses saving money is as important as making it. Just ask those who attended Maui Economic Development Board’s (MEDB) July 14th workshop entitled “Hidden Gems: State Programs to Save Your Business Money.” Looking for ways to save money and give their business a competitive edge, attendees discovered two state programs that one participant described as “diamonds in the rough.”

Wayne Thom, Community Economic Development Manager of the State of Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism’s (DBEDT) Business Support Branch, shared information on the Enterprise Zones (EZ) Partnership Program. Established for the purpose of job creation and stimulation of certain kinds of business/industry activities, new or existing businesses may be eligible under this program to receive various state credits and benefits for up to seven years, including:
–     100% exemption from the General Excise Tax (GET)
–     An 80% non-refundable income tax credit the first year, declining by 10% each year for the next six years
–     An additional income tax reduction equal to 80% of Unemployment Insurance premiums paid the first year, declining 10% each year for the next six years.
–     Each county also offers additional benefits to enrolled businesses. In Maui County, these benefits include priority consideration when processing business permits and granting zoning waivers.
To qualify for the EZ Partnership Program, businesses must meet certain eligibility requirements. These include that a business must be located in an EZ designated zone, must earn half of annual gross receipts from one or more of the EZ eligible activities, and must employ at least one full-time worker.
EZ eligible business activities are:

  • Agricultural production or processing
  • Manufacturing
  • Wholesaling/Distribution
  • Biotechnology research development, production, or sales
  • Aviation or maritime repair or maintenance
  • Telecommunications switching and delivery systems
  • Information technology design and production
  • Medical research, clinical trials, and telemedicine
  • For-profit training programs in international business management or environmental remediation
  • Repair or maintenance of assistive technology equipment
  • Certain types of call centers
  • Wind energy producers

“The EZ program lowers the cost of doing business in Hawaii at no cost to the business,” said Thom. “It’s for businesses who are expanding their business, making more revenue, increasing production, looking to export, and creating jobs. The benefits are all on the business side and it costs nothing to join this program, as long as you’re in an eligible industry and located in an EZ zone which applies to most of Maui County.”

Jamie Lum, Economic Development Specialist for DBEDT’s Business Development & Support Division, presented information on the Hawaii State Trade and Export Promotion Assistance Program (HiSTEP-AP). Under this program, qualified companies can receive direct awards to participate in export marketing activities. Applicants may request a minimum of $2,000 and a maximum of $6,000 for various business activities including trade shows, travel, collateral materials, compliance testing, shipping, and other
“When considering exporting, it helps to do your homework ahead of time,” said Lum. “Learn about the markets you want to get into and make sure it’s realistic for the product and service you have. Start small. Start in English speaking countries, which is advice from the U.S. Department of Commerce, because learning what their regulations are can be difficult. Look at countries that have solid business practices – Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. Lastly, when considering exporting, make sure your business is solid, because if there are any weaknesses in your business it’ll just be amplified when you start exporting.”
“Today’s workshop was very helpful,” said Valerie Bigelow from Island Girl Collections. “We’re always looking for ways to improve and grow our business and workshops like this provide an invaluable resource to learn more.”
“This workshop offered attendees ‘hidden gems’ as many businesses may not be aware of state programs that can save their business money and/or assist them with export opportunities,” stated Frank De Rego Jr., Director of Business Development Projects at MEDB. “We’re very pleased to be offering these business assistance workshops as part of MEDB’s Innovation Series as it helps our local entrepreneurs build foundations for business success.”
Power Points of Thom’s and Lum’s presentations can be downloaded at:
For the HiSTEP program:
For the EZ program:
Other helpful online resources:
State Business Development and Support Division:
U.S. Department of Commerce:
County of Maui Business Resource Center:
MEDB’s July 14th workshop was sponsored by the County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development; and the State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.