BY SEN. SAM SLOM – City Spirit: Newsweek magazine recently issued a report on various city economies around the nation. Among the ratings was Grand Rapids, Michigan, which Newsweek labeled as a “dying city.” The businesses and residents did not like the characterization and fought back. Last week, the city released an answer on YouTube. It is 9 ½ minutes long and is fantastic. Various businesses, non-profits and individuals got together, invested $40,000, organized 5,000 citizens, and shot a one-take, continuous video of residents (business people, athletes, families, law enforcement, etc.) marching downtown in support of their city, to the Don McLean song, “Miss American Pie.” Go to “Grand Rapids LipDub” on You Tube. Maybe Honolulu could do the same thing? We could enlist 7,000 homeless (as long as they are not fed the parks per Gov. Abercrombie’s instruction).

Happy Birthday Israel: Sunday was the annual “Independence Day for Israel” celebration at Skygate Park on City Hall grounds. Music, dancing, food and product booths filled the park. No pro-Palestinian protesters this year. Former Gov. Linda Lingle and I spoke. Other invited state and county elected officials did not show.

Predictable Forecast: The meeting of State Council on Revenues last Thursday was cut and dry. It appeared the Council had decided prior to the meeting that they were going to say “no change.”  A great deal was riding on that meeting and estimate; if the Council had downgraded their last forecast, a special legislative session to balance the budget was almost a certainty. Most legislators did not want to go back into session. So, no change. The formulas, models and math could explain the forecast, but not so if talking to real business people who continue to struggle. Then there is the matter of the new taxes passed by the Legislature and City Council and their impact. The forecast is open to interpretation and… political pressure. All of the Council members have terms that expire June 30.

Taking Initiative: Congrats to Big Mike Palcic, owner of Mac Mouse Club, a member, and now leader of the O’ahu Reapportionment Advisory Council. He has taken it upon himself to personally visit many Neighborhood Board meetings and inform the various communities about the progress of the Reapportionment Commission. The Governor yesterday finally signed the legislative emergency appropriation ($664,000) to fund the work of the Commission this year.

Money, Money, Money:

  • The State of Hawai’i was awarded $13 million in federal funds to support Hawai’i’s small businesses through an investment program. These funds are expected to be matched 10-to-1 by private investors over seven years, resulting in $130 million in new funding for small businesses in Hawai’i.
  • The U.S Department of the Treasury has approved Hawai’i’s application to the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI).  The SSBCI program was established by the Federal Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 and provides participating states with federal funds for programs that leverage private funds to help small businesses and access the capital they need to expand their operations, invest in new equipment, and create new jobs.
  • The Hawai’i Strategic Development Corporation (HSDC) will use the funds for its venture capital investment program. HSDC will use this investment to commercialize innovative technologies developed at the University of Hawai’i, strengthen the angel investment community in Hawai’i (individuals who have invested more than $30 million in various companies and have played a significant role in Hawai’i’s start-up community), and to develop new investment programs that mentor entrepreneurs and help start-up companies successfully compete for follow-on venture capital to grow their businesses.
  • Dallas, Denver and Phoenix will be the targets for intensive visitor marketing by the Hawaii Visitors Bureau after receiving a $2 million grant from the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Amazon Law Debate Continues: Like Hawaii, Legislators in Louisiana have joined the debate over sales taxes on out-of-state businesses with a proposed “Amazon” law, which would require retailers based in other states to collect and remit sales taxes. The proposal exceeds the state’s taxing authority and likely violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, according to a new analysis by the Tax Foundation.

Named after their best-known target, online retailer Amazon.com, these laws deem an out-of-state company to be an in-state company for sales tax purposes if the company receives commissioned referrals from in-state resident “affiliates.” The out-of-state company must then collect sales tax for the state. While 21 states have considered “Amazon” laws in the past three years, including Hawaii, only five have enacted them: Connecticut, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island.

Under such a law, out-of-state online retailers are obligated to track over 8,000 sales tax jurisdictions, which have been growing recently at the rate of several hundred per year.

More on APEC: Enterprise Honolulu is coordinating a series of three free workshops, in conjunction with the counties’ economic development boards, on all islands to help local businesses take business advantage of the upcoming APEC Conference in November. The first will be on O’ahu, next Tuesday, June 7 at the State Capitol Auditorium, 10 am to noon. The workshop is free but you must pre-register. Contact: pshim@enterprisehonolulu.com for more details.

National Recognition: Darren Furumoto, operations manager and lead installer at Alternate Energy Inc., has earned the industry’s leading recognition of expertise as a certified installer of solar electric systems (photovoltaic or PV systems) from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

Facebook Power: An IBOPE Zogby interactive poll of self-identified investors finds that 37% would likely buy stock in Facebook if the social networking site was publicly traded.

Economic Muscle: Since 1997, POLICOM has created economic strength rankings for many metropolitan areas of the U.S.  The 2011 rankings for 366 metropolitan areas and 576 micropolitan areas are now available at www.policom.com.

Bribes and Politicians: The latest Rasmussen Poll reveals some interesting survey results involving business attitudes including:

51% Think It’s Bribery When A Company Offers A Government Regulator A Job http://tinyurl.com/RR2971;

9% Say Congress Doing Good/Excellent Job http://tinyurl.com/RR2972

74% Favor Banning Regulators From Working For Those They Regulate For At Least Five Years http://tinyurl.com/RR2974

More at SBHFoundation.org and Smartbusinesshawaii.com

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