Mayor Alan Arakawa touted Maui as "the best place in the world" during a Maui Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday, citing investments that resorts and small businesses have made as a major reason.
"I want to thank every hotel who's renovated their facilities, businesses (who've) upgraded. By doing that, you've made Maui that much more desirable," Arakawa said at the Chamber's annual Luncheon with the Mayor. "If you don't put the investments back in, then those things start getting run down, it's harder to sell and we have more challenges."
About 100 people - including elected officials, small-business owners and employees of sponsor Alexander & Baldwin - attended the meeting held at the Kahili Golf Course in Waikapu.
Proudly citing the U.S. News & World Report's ranking last month of Maui as the best vacation destination in America and fourth best in the world, Arakawa said it's the community's ability to work together that made the recognition possible.
"Everyone else in the United States and most of the world are looking at us and thinking, 'What the heck are these guys doing to stay where they are?' We're working together. We're all doing our share. We're all helping each other and making it easier for each other to hold our head up high and say we've got the best place in the world," Arakawa said.
During his 30-minute speech, Arakawa also listed projects and initiatives his office has worked to accomplish over the last four years. Those projects included adopting more sustainable energy initiatives, securing land acquisitions like Launiupoko to preserve the Pali-to-Puamana coastline, investing in Maui's burgeoning film industry, cleaning up Halloween night in Lahaina and restimulating economies in the Paia and Upcountry areas.
"We got back the windsurfing championship of the world, surfing championships, the paddle board championships. . . . If you look at Paia and Makawao today and think back to what they were like just a few years ago, many of the buildings were falling apart, many buildings were empty. Today, you can hardly find places to rent," Arakawa said.
The mayor, who is up for re-election this year, ended his keynote address by "bragging" about the Maui High School Saber Marching Band & Color Guard, which is slated to play in the 126th annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year's Day.
"This Rose Bowl recognition puts the icing on the cake. I'm very proud of them," said the Maui High School alumnus.
* Eileen Chao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.