UH Report: NELHA Contributes $88M to Economy
by Dave Smith
The ocean science and technology park at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority contributes nearly $88 million to Hawaii’s economy, a University of Hawaii research group has reported.
The analysis by the UH Economic Research Organization showed that total expenditures from NELHA were $81 million in 2010, including $50 million paid to Hawaii entities.
The business generated $4.5 million in state tax revenues that year.
NELHA, which is located at Keahole Point north of Kailua-Kona, generated 583 jobs in 2010, UHERO reported.
“This data validates the vision and decisions of state policy makers, Legislature and the NELHA Board of Directors over the past 30 years to develop and support the technology park,” John DeLong, chairman of the NELHA Board of Directors, said in a statement.
The news comes on the heels of a state audit that said after nearly 40 years, NELHA has not yet reached its potential as an ocean-related research, education and commercial center.
The report from state Auditor Marian Higa said NELHA was “sorely lacking” in critical plans and policies including a master plan, financial plan and other administrative rules. She also said NELHA’s policies and procedures manual is “seriously out of date.”
The audit said the authority, which operates under the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, continues to struggle with the requirements of the state’s Sunshine Law.
Timely access to minutes of the authority’s board is not consistent, and the audit questioned both the use and documentation of the board’s use of executive sessions closed to the public.
The audit also noted that rents paid for leases by the tenants of the ocean science park are not uniform.
Higa noted that the performance of the authority has improved under new administration that took over a year ago, and NELHA is now financially self-sufficient although it still depends on the state for capitol improvement funds.
She said the authority did not dispute the findings. Higa said DeLong told her the authority is already taking action on some of her recommendations. Those actions include training board members on openness issues, approving a new strategic plan and completing an economic impact analysis.
NELHA recently received a $3 million federal grant to develop a biotechnology incubator.