The U.S. House passed a bill I co-sponsored as a member of the U.S. House Small Business Committee that would make Native Hawaiians and other indigenous communities eligible for federal grants of up to $300,000 annually for help in managing their small businesses.

Small businesses receiving technical assistance are twice as likely to succeed compared to those not receiving any such help. We need to make a special effort to provide this support to our nation’s indigenous peoples who own and run businesses.

In our state, Native Hawaiians constitute about 20 percent of the total population in Hawaii and face many of the same challenges as other indigenous peoples in economic development. The increased guidance from this bill will no doubt foster economic self-sufficiency among Native Hawaiians, thereby bettering their overall conditions in our society.

The bill (H.R. 1166), now headed for the Senate, would amend the Small Business Act to expand and improve the assistance provided by Small Business Development Centers to Native Hawaiians, American Indians, and Native Alaskans. Small Business Development Centers, administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration, offer one-stop assistance to individuals and small businesses by providing a wide variety of information and guidance. There are 58 Small Business Development Centers in the country, including one in Hawaii, and more than 1,100 service locations, including six in Hawaii.

Small businesses are a driving force of Hawaii’s economy and account for 97 percent of all businesses in Hawaii or 39,000 out of 40,000 businesses.

H.R. 1166 will authorize Small Business Development Centers to apply for up to $300,000 annually to provide services to assist with the outreach, development and enhancement of small business growth among indigenous communities. This is toward the end of addressing chronic unemployment and other challenges among these communities through increased economic self-sufficiency.

The Hawaii Small Business Development Centers Network is a partnership program between the University of Hawaii at Hilo and the U.S. Small Business Administration. It is headed by State Director Darryl Mlyenek. Hawaii Small Business Development Centers network locations include Hilo (East Hawaii), Kailua-Kona (West Hawaii), Lihue (Kauai), Honolulu (Oahu), Kihei (Maui), and the Hawaii Business Research Library at Maui Research and Technology Park.

I also applaud the network’s current policy to use the Hawaiian language spelling of the word “Hawaii” in all documents, including brochures, business cards, emails, letters, stationery and other work product.

This sensitivity to Hawaii’s indigenous people and culture is welcome news and will likely be strengthened after the enactment of H.R. 1166.

”’Congressman Ed Case, a Democrat representing the Second District in Hawaii in the U.S. House of Representatives, is a member of the small business committee. Case, a co-sponsor of bill targeting increased SBA grants, is a past winner of the Small Business Hawaii Top Legislator Award, and formerly served in the Hawaii State Legislature as a Representative of the Manoa District.”’

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