As some elected officials seek to increase the cost of doing business in Hawaii, let us take a moment to reflect upon the amount of jobs needed on a national and local level.
According to a ZeroHedge.com article, as of April 6, the U.S. has lost 5,200,000 jobs since the recession.
Closer to home, the state Research and Statistics Office of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations published report titled "Hawaii Labor Market Dynamics" in September 2011. This report notes that Hawaii, from 2007 to 2010, lost a total of 37,950 jobs.
While these are staggering numbers, they do not represent the full picture. Older workers are continuing to remain in the labor force, thereby reducing job openings, and more graduates are trying to enter a labor market that has little available for them.
Reports vary, but various sources indicate that we should be adding somewhere between 100,000 to over 250,000 jobs a month on a national level to get back to the unemployment rate before the recession.
Where will these jobs come from? How can we make up for the massive losses and increasing need for additional jobs? What does this mean for our children's future?
Today, companies like Google and Facebook are known for being big job generators. Google, as an example, now employs over 32,000 people. If we could attract a company the size of Google to Hawaii (and it only hired locally), we could get close to the state's pre-recession numbers. While we are not expecting this to happen anytime soon, it helps illustrate a couple of points.
Our large employers on Maui are companies like hotels, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., and Maui Land & Pineapple Co. in its heyday. When Maui Land & Pine ramped down, hundreds were laid off. When its Maui Pineapple Co. division was closed, hundreds more lost their jobs, and further losses have occurred since. When Molokai Ranch was shut down, it was devastating. Molokai still has unemployment over 13 percent (based on February figures). We are dealing with businesses on a different scale. If we lose one large company, we lose hundreds of jobs. Think that cannot happen? It already has.
We have also lost many small businesses, equating to hundreds of more job losses and hourly reductions. These losses may be in small groupings, but the losses are real just the same.
To reach 37,950 jobs and come close to what a company like Goggle has achieved (mind you, over many years), it will take numerous industries (not just businesses) to do extremely well in spite of the lagging economy.
Some also debate whether it is "small businesses" or "new businesses" that produce the most jobs. Both are great contributors and both need capital to grow and hire. Therefore, anything we can do to keep their costs down helps them sustain jobs and increase employment opportunities.
So, when lawmakers want to raise the cost of doing business for our existing businesses who are challenged with other cost increases and working hard to get back to better times, ask them about Hawaii's job growth plan, the number of jobs our state expects to see generated each month, and where those jobs will come from. Then call a month later to find out if the goal was achieved.
We have a colossal challenge to solve and we need better solutions than continuing to require that the business sector pay more. Instead of chipping away at businesses, let us work together to build them back up to create the needed jobs and future we all desire.
* Pamela Tumpap is president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.