The Maui Economic Development Board was launched more than 30 years ago at a time when most Valley Isle jobs were in tourism, agriculture or service industries.
Many of the island's best and brightest students chose to study at Mainland schools and seek employment opportunities there.
As articulated by founding MEDB board member, the late Colin Cameron of Maui Land & Pineapple Co., the agency's aim was to continue a process of leading to "community-accepted new economic directions which both the public and private sectors working together can follow."
Maui Economic Development Board President and Chief Executive Officer Jeanne Unemori Skog
Maui Economic Development Board Vice President Leslie Wilkins
Today, that spirit of looking ahead to future workforce needs and working collaboratively with the community continues at MEDB, said agency President and Chief Executive Officer Jeanne Unemori Skog.
When MEDB started in 1982, only 150 to 175 people worked in high-technology jobs on Maui, she said. Now, the best available estimate is that 2,300 residents are employed in high-technology positions, with workers earning an average of $70,000 annually.
"We believe our work at MEDB has changed people's lives," Skog said.
MEDB's programs include:
* Ke Alahele Education Fund has provided $675,700 in awards in 144 grants since 2006 to more than 30,000 students and teachers in Maui County. The grant money has supported robotics programs in middle and high schools, educational and cultural exchanges, the purchase of astronomy equipment, aquaponics and native plant restoration projects, media and communications projects and more.
* Local business assistance through high-tech Maui and other workshops.
* Women in Technology, a program to build and strengthen the education workforce pipeline by encouraging girls, women and other underrepresented groups into science, technology, engineering and math careers. The program has received grants from the U.S. Labor, Agriculture and Education departments.
* The annual Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference, which has become the premier conference in the nation devoted to space surveillance. The conference attracts a cross-section of military, contractors and academics in the field of "space situational awareness."
* Focus Maui Nui, a community-driven vision for the future of Maui County that includes a weekly feature published in The Maui News.
* Brian Perry can be reached at email@example.com.