Hawai‘i’s four Native Hawaiian Chambers of Commerce have entered into an alliance to benefit the community and everyone else who calls Hawai‘i home. The alliance was originally proposed in May when Richard Fernandez, immediate past president of O‘ahu’s Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce, initiated a formal memorandum of agreement between the Native Hawaiian chambers of Oʻahu, Maui, and Kauaʻi. News of the agreement prompted Big Island farmer and businessman Richard Ha to reconstitute the former Hawaiʻi Island Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce, which has agreed to join the alliance while formalizing a new charter.
Representatives of the four Chambers came together in Maui on October 17 at the 12th Annual Hui Holomua Business Fest presented by the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce in Waikapu. During the meeting, State Senator Brickwood Galuteria made the official announcement about the state-wide alliance.
During their Maui meeting, the four presidents discussed how their differences are actually strengths. “Each Hawaiian chamber strives to assist Hawaiian-owned and managed businesses,” said NHCoC president Joseph Lapilio. “But as Hawaiians, we also care about the ʻaina and the lahui as much as economic success.”
Teri Freitas Gorman, president of Maui’s NHCoC, said the differences can benefit the entire state. “The state’s political leadership and corporate offices are in Honolulu, so the Oʻahu folks can share that perspective with us,” she said. “The neighbor island chambers bring deep relationships with educational, cultural, and community organizations. Together we can be a force for good for Native Hawaiians and everyone else who calls Hawaiʻi home.”
Acting president of the developing HNCoC, Richard Ha, believes the new alliance will broaden discussions about Hawaiian issues throughout the state. “Sometimes people think the loudest voices represent the majority, when in fact there are more thoughtful, but softer, voices that should be heard as well,” Ha said. “We can help to amplify their voice.”
KNHCoC president John Kaohehauliʻi said each island chamber has its own issues, but they all share the same desire: “To make sure Hawaiians can afford to stay in Hawaiʻi, not just to survive, but to thrive.”
The four NHCC presidents also spoke together publicly for the first time on a conference panel to discuss the business of food . “I’ve been encouraging them to join efforts for quite a while,” said Galuteria. “So to see them seated on the stage together is a truly historic moment.”
In late September, at the invitation of Oʻahu’s NHCoC, representatives of the four organizations met in Honolulu for an exploratory meeting. The half-day summit was facilitated by Fernandez and Kumu Ramsay Taum of LEI of the Pacific, LLC. As a result of that meeting, all four chambers agreed to adopt the Aloha Spirit Law as their collective code of conduct.
Photo courtesy of MNHCoC