Looks like the County of Maui may soon spend about a million tax dollars on beer brewing, deep well drilling, patient care software, stem cell research and a new restaurant called “Da Car Wash Cafe.”
Back in February, the Maui County Office of Economic Development (OED) started a new experiment of sorts in the world of corporate welfare (as though a government office of “economic development” isn’t already corporate welfare-ish enough). It’s called the Economic Development Revolving Fund (EDRF). County officials billed this new fund as a way to help boost the local economy.
“This is a visionary program that could become a catalyst for growth for many businesses out there,” said Mayor Alan Arakawa, according to this Maui News story. “By providing the capital, we provide opportunities for business to expand and hire new people and buy more goods and services from our community.”
Here’s how the county’s Office of Economic Development describes the fund:
To be considered for the EDRF an applicant should have a primary place of business that already exists in the County. The Office of Economic Development (OED) is looking for applicants who want to foster continued growth in their company. These companies should have a strong balance sheet, have established markets that show growth potential, and show strong potential for creating living wage employment for our residents. The fund is designed to assist companies with these qualifications to expand their business through additional locations, new equipment, exporting opportunities, R&D for a demonstrated capability or product, or to commercialize capability or a new product.
Grants start at $50,000 and must have a “one to one” match in cash (which can come from a grant or loan). What’s more, entities–for-profit or not–that already have county grants aren’t apparently eligible. In short, the county only wants well-run companies with “strong balance sheets” to apply, but to be fair, why would such a company need a boost from the county?
Anyway, five applicants–all for-profit corporations–saw their money requests appear on yesterday’s Maui County Council Budget and Finance Committee meeting agenda. One official at the County Council told me this morning that other firms have apparently been considered for grants from the fund, but these are the first applicants to make it this far. The committee merely reviewed the proposals–actually approving will require a committee vote. As for when that might happen, Committee chairman Mike White hasn’t yet said.
Here are the five proposals, listed in the Budget & Finance Committee meeting agenda, which together add up to $1 million:
1. Uptown Service, Inc. would like $200,000 to “convert its car wash facility to a restaurant called ‘Da Car Wash Cafe'”
2. Alpha, Inc. wants $125,000 to “purchase a National T-32 drill rig to offer lower cost drilling to deep well projects”
3. Maui Innovation Group LLC would like $175,000 “for medical care management software to better manage patient care”
4. HNU Photonics LLC wants $250,000 “for infrastructure and equipment for stem cell research”
5. Aumakua Holdings, Inc. would like $250,000 “for equipment for a Maui Brewing Co. facility in Kihei to add beverages and increase exportation”
At least one resident found all this, well, distasteful.
“Government should confine itself to the basic functions needed by a society: defense against aggressors, roads, police and courts, education of the young, hospitals, care for those unable to care for themselves, mutual assistance in time of disaster,” Wailuku resident Sally Raisbeck wrote in a Sept. 30 email to MauiTime, which arrived after the meeting and first alerted us to it. “Collecting taxes is unfortunately another necessary function… This goes directly to whether or not you believe in capitalism. If you do, the government should not involve itself in supporting some businesses against others. If the brewery is successful, it will be able to expand itself. The county should not be involved.”
Photo: Wikimedia Commons