In his final chamber address, Ige touts Big Island’s past plans with an eye on more to come
In his final address to the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce’s annual luncheon, Governor David Ige bid farewell to a group he worked closely with during his eight years as governor and recapped some of the major accomplishments that his administration helped land on the Big Island – which were many.
Ige served as the keynote speaker at the Annual Members Luncheon and Room Awards each year during his eight-year tenure. The past two years have been held virtually, but Ige also attended.
“I really want to thank you all for being so kind every time I come to the island of Hawaii,” Ige said.
At the Fairmont Orchid resort in Waikōloa on Friday, Ige celebrated a number of projects on the Big Island that his administration promised and did.
Over the past eight years, these projects have totaled $20 billion, including $1 billion in infrastructure alone. The list includes an expanded and redone Queen Ka’ahumanu Expressway, an expanded and upgraded Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport in Keāhole, a $90 million Keahuolū courthouse, millions to support NELHA expansion, a college campus community in Pālamanui and several affordable housing units. subdivisions.
“I made an effort to invest in the island of Hawaii when I became governor,” Ige said.
Just this week, Ige’s office released more funds for the Big Island Capital Improvement Project, including funds to pay off the recently completed federal inspection station at the airport.
“And yes, we completed the Federal Inspection Station under budget,” Ige said to a round of applause.
The modernized and expanded airport arrives just in time for the return of international travel.
Ige recently returned from a visit to Japan where he learned that Japan Airlines had agreed to begin direct flights from Tokyo to Kona from August 1. The Japanese carrier is doing so with some trepidation as many unknowns still remain regarding COVID-19, but the airline is committed to landing in Kona.
It’s up to residents to roll out a hospitable carpet, Ige said, as tourism is the No. 1 economic driver in the islands and Japan is the only market that hasn’t returned to pre-COVID travel numbers.
“We have to make August 1 a success,” Ige said. “We can make the launch happen in a big way.”
Ige began his half-hour speech to the few hundred people in the resort’s ballroom by reflecting on the lessons learned from the pandemic and celebrating the successes the islands have achieved through it.
The Commonwealth Fund — a private foundation that supports independent research into health issues and provides grants to improve health practices and policies — ranked Hawai’i as the No. 1 state in handling the pandemic. It included more than 50 metrics to arrive at the rankings, where Hawai’i’s zero days of having an “overwhelmed” hospital system played into that first-place gain.
It is a ranking to which the outgoing governor said he was proud to be part.
“I really take my hat off,” he told Hawai’i healthcare workers.
And the lessons they learned from the pandemic they implemented in this year’s state budget, allocating $6.7 million to expand residency programs for doctors and nurses. across the university to keep young healthcare workers here as they enter the workforce. The state is also bolstering high school and state department internship programs with the same goal of giving young professionals a chance to start their careers on the islands.
“We have done great things during the COVID pandemic and we will come out of it better,” he said.
While those points had an eye on the future, Ige’s address was, in part, a walk down memory lane. But the eight years have been filled with visits to the Big Island and projects on the Big Island, as noted by the Governor, which are worth remembering.
“It was truly an honor to serve as Governor of the State of Hawai’i,” Ige said at the end. “I’m so proud of you all.”