The recent news reports on the Alaska Aerospace satellite launching project for East Hawaii and the feasibility report on Basalt Fabrication reveal a glaring and disturbing weakness in the Hawaii government process for evaluating economic development proposals.
Where is the due diligence?
Hawaii taxpayers are funding an environmental assessment for Alaska Aerospace in the amount of $250,000, and we funded a feasibility study for Basalt Fabrication in the amount of $180,000.
A simple 30 to 60 minutes of due diligence protocol would have protected our tax dollars from these “economic development schemes” long before nearly half a million of our tax dollars were wasted!
The Alaska Aerospace Board of Directors — all appointed by the governor of Alaska — mandated the development of an equatorial launching site to protect its commercial satellite business model. Alaskans should be paying the costs of an environmental assessment, not Hawaii taxpayers. Why are we paying to protect a state of Alaska investment?
The business model for Basalt Filament fabrication is not dependent on basalt raw material cost — only 5 to 7 percent of the total fabrication costs. The economic drivers are low cost energy, proximity to a target customer base — for example automotive composites — and a materials science technology/knowledge base. None of these economic drivers are present in Hawaii.
Hawaii taxpayers already shoulder the third highest total tax burden in the nation; only Vermont and North Dakota are higher. Why are we wasting our tax dollars protecting Alaskan investments? Or funding feasibility studies that are pure fantasy?
Kenneth Beilstein is a resident of Kailua-Kona.