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Maui’s Economy
 

Today’s Economy

The two major industries on Maui are agriculture and tourism.

However, government research groups and high technology companies have discovered that Maui has a business environment favorable for growth in those sectors. Agriculture value-added enterprises are growing rapidly.

Coffee, macadamia nuts, papaya, tropical flowers, sugar and fresh pineapple are just some of Hawaii’s premium exports and are a great example of its diversified agriculture. Maui Land & Pineapple Company and Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company (HC&S, a subsidiary of Alexander and Baldwin Company) dominate agricultural activity. HC&S produces sugarcane on about 37,000 acres (150 km2) of the Maui central valley, the largest sugarcane operation remaining in Hawaii. A controversial feature of Maui sugarcane production is the harvesting method of controlled cane field fires for nine months of the year. Burns reduce the crop to bare canes just before harvesting. The fires produce smoke that towers above the Maui central valley most early mornings, and ash (locally referred to as “Maui snow”) that is carried downwind (often towards north Kīhei). In November 2009 Maui Land & Pineapple Company announced it was ceasing pineapple growing operations on Maui effective January 1, 2010.

The Maui High Performance Computing Center (MHPCC) in Kihei is a U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Center which is managed by the University of Hawaii. It provides more than 10,000,000 hours of computing time per year to the research, science, and military communities.

Another promoter of high technology on Maui is the Maui Research and Technology Center, also located in Kihei. The MRTC is a program of the High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC), an agency of the State of Hawaii, whose focus is to facilitate the growth of Hawaii’s commercial high technology sector.

Maui is also an important center for advanced astronomical research. The Haleakala Observatory was Hawaii’s first astronomical research and development facility at the Maui Space Surveillance Site (MSSS) electro-optical facility. “At the 10,023 feet summit of the long dormant volcano Haleakala, operational satellite tracking facilities are co-located with a research and development facility providing superb data acquisition and communication support. The high elevation, dry climate, and freedom from light pollution offer virtually year-round observation of satellites, missiles, man-made orbital debris, and astronomical objects.”

The unemployment rate reached a low of 1.7% in December, 2006, rising to 9% in March 2009.

Tourism

The big tourist spots in Maui include the Hāna Highway, Haleakalā National Park, Lahaina and the coast to the northwest of Lahaina.

The Hāna Highway runs along the north and east coast of Maui, curving around many mountains and passing by black sand beaches and waterfalls. Haleakalā National Park is home to Haleakalā, a dormant volcano. Lahaina is one of the main attractions on the island with an entire street of shops and restaurants which lead to a wharf where many set out for a sunset cruise or whale watching journey. Snorkeling can be done at almost any beach along the Maui coast.

The main tourist areas are West Maui (Kā’anapali, Lahaina, Nāpili-Honokōwai, Kahana, Napili, Kapalua), and South Maui (Kīhei, Wailea-Mākena). The main port of call for cruise ships is located in Kahului. A smaller port can be found in Ma’alaea Harbor located between Lahaina and Kihei.

Maui County welcomed 2,207,826 tourists in 2004 rising to 2,639,929 in 2007 with total tourist expenditures north of US$3.5 billion for the Island of Maui alone. While the island of O’ahu is most popular with Japanese tourists, the Island of Maui appeals to visitors mostly from the U.S. mainland and Canada: in 2005, there were 2,003,492 domestic arrivals on the island, compared to 260,184 international arrivals.

While winning many travel industry awards as Best Island In The World[, in recent years concerns have been raised by locals and environmentalists about the overdevelopment of Maui. A number of activist groups, including Save Makena, has gone as far as taking the government to court to protect the rights of local citizens.

Throughout 2008 Maui suffered a major loss in tourism compounded by the spring bankruptcies of Aloha Airlines and ATA Airlines. The pullout in May of the second of three Norwegian Cruise Line ships also hurt. Pacific Business News reported a $166 million loss in revenue for Maui tourism businesses.




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