Viewpoint: Islandwide responsibility taken seriously

Maui is our home. It is my home, where I grew up, where my mom lives and where I raise my children. The decisions that we at Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. make every day are not only personal to the people of HC&S but an islandwide responsibility that we take seriously.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to return home and earn a decent living on the island of Maui. For a local boy, opportunities like these are rare. Any commercial industry, especially on Maui, is limited, but HC&S has been cultivating and fostering agricultural growth for more than 140 years. As a result, HC&S has become a provider of water, power (from renewable resources), jobs and open space for the people of Maui. The positive impacts transcend to our island’s economy and environment.

Many of us grew up with fields of sugar cane in our backyards and, at a young age, we all probably took for granted the importance of this industry. Whether it is harvesting the fields, operating machinery, studying crops or purchasing supplies from a local vendor, HC&S has been providing real financial opportunities for the people of Maui for as long as I can remember. HC&S also supports our important tourism industry on Maui by contributing to the rural landscape and ambiance that our visitors so enjoy.

In order to keep the sugar industry viable on Maui, we continuously look for ways to improve and to become more sustainable. New innovations and technologies are constantly being reviewed and tested. Whether it is crops to be converted into biofuel or alternative harvesting technology for our island, we are always working on ways to improve.

We know that our impact on the community is immense and we do not take this responsibility lightly. We are currently working closely with several national institutions to further pursue tropical biofuel production, assessing the most appropriate crop to grow and conversion technology for Maui. Just last week, HC&S hosted experts from more than 20 universities and research organizations to secure their input on potential green harvest and biofuel conversion technologies for HC&S.

With opportunity comes responsibility and ownership.

For me, running HC&S is more than a job – it is a commitment to the health of our community at all levels. We are a leader in renewable energy on Maui and will continue to advocate for a green Maui through renewable energy and resource conservation. We will continue to train our friends and family, providing job skills so that they, too, can continue to live and thrive on the island they grew up on. As a 143-year old local company, HC&S is committed to the well-being and safety of Maui and its people.

Recently there have been a rash of unplanned fires in our sugar cane fields. These fires are dangerous not only for the county fire personnel and HC&S employees who respond, but the general public as well. Public safety and the safety of our employees are our No. 1 concern and we truly appreciate the county’s proactive approach to find the person or people involved in setting these fires. We will assist the authorities in any way possible with their felony investigation, and we are reaching out to you, our community, for help. Anyone with information about the recent unscheduled fires in our fields, please call the public number for the Maui Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division at 244-6425.

Thank you for your patience during the recent fires and the sugar cane harvest season. We appreciate community efforts to see the bigger picture – that agriculture is part of the very fabric of Maui, woven into the economic, social, cultural and environmental foundations of this island.

Let’s work together as a community to further the success of agriculture because Maui is our home.

* Rick Volner is the general manager of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.