Hawaii's Businesses Still Looking Up

Anthony Buono
Anthony Buono
Paul Brewbaker
Paul Brewbaker

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- There are still fears of a recession for many around the country.

But economists and businesses here are more optomistic about our financial future.

If you take a look around here at Kewalo Basin, you can see construction going on, that combined with a low unemployment rate and a diversified economy are just some of the factors helping to keep our outlook bright during darker economic times for the mainland.

While the stock market is down for 2008, things are still looking up for businesses in the islands.

"The U.S. is facing choppy times in many markets as it relates to retail sales - but this market here isn't experiencing what is going on in number of markets," said Anthony Buono, a Retail Services Director.

Being isolated in the pacific has also insolated us from the big problems across the country. The housing downturn and the mortgage mess.

"Our housing economy went through the housing transition earlier so now they are feeling it with a vengeance, we also had less risk with our mortgage lending," said Paul Brewbaker, a Bank of Hawaii economist.

Hawaii has the lowest default rate for mortgages in the country, which allows local banks to keep issuing credit.

"A shakeup on wall street will still have an impact on bishop street. And some of the businesses that call Hawaii home."

While luxury and big box retailers have not seen much of a slowdown with the softening economy, some businesses could struggle in the coming year.

"Where you might see some challenges, in local or regional retailers that can't withstand one or two quarters of slowdowns, the boutiques or specialty brands," said Buono.

And money worries on the mainland could also cut back on tourist dollars here.

"The combination of tourists deciding not to come here, not spending as much when they are here and tourists who might become investors in our real estate market who are not going to be buying," said Brewbaker.

Hawaii's economy has been pretty flat for the past two years, but there is some concern that another slow year because of decreased tourism could cut more sharply into island businesses before things improve.