University Economic Development Association

Creating the Blue Economy with the University of Hawaii Pacific Business Center Program!

Pictured: EDA Seattle Regional Director Sheba Person-Whitley (center, standing) visits the PBCP Staff.

The Pacific Business Center Program (PBCP) at the University of Hawaii implements regenerative economic development to help Indigenous and underserved islands help themselves become more environmentally and economically self-sustainable. Serving a unique and massive 3.2 million square mile service area, consisting of Hawaii and U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI), PBCP ties business development into business infrastructure to build local island capacity while sustaining sociocultural values. Overall goals include building resiliency by weaving modern science and technology with traditional Oceania wisdom.Extensive partnership building and collaboration has been a key component to the PBCP’s success. The islands’ smaller capacities posed challenges in developing industry on their own. These challenges were overcome by convincing the islands to work together as a region, through a diligence towards in-person trust building through cultural connections, and pursing development that considered the wellbeing of those affected. Ecosystem building efforts allowed PBCP to reframe its service area as a Blue Continent with a Blue Economy built on a collaborative regional food industry, rather than thousands of scattered, smaller islands with industries and objectives going in different directions.The Blue Economy helps weave regional components together, including the commercialization of breadfruit, an economic development initiative launched by the PBCP 15 years ago. Hawaii and the USAPI created a sustainable breadfruit industry, utilizing an agroforestry approach that minimizes imported pesticides and labor and shifts away monocropping plantation layouts. The increase of coordinated local cultivation increased the region’s capacity to meet trade demands as a result. For instance, the sub-regional areas of Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia, thousands of miles apart, each would unlikely meet a demand of 50,000 tons of breadfruit; but could regionally double that amount. The Blue Economy also expanded Hawaii and USAPI’s network and presence, as the region has a more representative voice in industry and even global issues.The Pacific Business Center Program continues to practice regenerative economic development in its future initiatives. The EDA university center leveraged their Blue Economy and hopes to work together with University of Hawaii experts on large scale projects to provide solutions to Pacific Islands problems such as climate change and food security. While previous activities included connection and relationship building, PBCP seeks to play a deeper role in providing economic and workforce development components. Overall, PBCP’s intentions is summarized by recently retired Dr. Failautusi Avegalio, Jr., EdD:“Building roots on the ground, not depending on boots on the ground.” For more information about the Business Pacific Center Program, click here.