EXCLUSIVE: DHHL accused of being unfair to Hawaiian businesses
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nowel Alana is a third-generation Hawaiian homesteader who says the Department of Hawaiian Home Land is icing out native Hawaiian businesses like hers.
The owner of Kalaka Nui, a local trucking and building materials recycling company, say she's been applying for a DHHL commercial lease since 2008. She said the department has passed her over not once or twice but three times.
And the last time, she lost out to a non-Hawaiian competitor.
"I felt that was discriminating to me in my mind because I've tried all these years," said Alana.
"I think they're giving privileges to bigger corporations that have maybe deeper pockets."
Alana said she is seeking to lease two to three acres from the DHHL at Kalaeloa so that she can expand her construction recycling business.
She recently purchased a new, $800,000 crushing machine that will allow her company grow its revenues by 25 to 30 percent over the next two years. The expansion will also add as many as six new employees.
But she said her first application in 2008 was denied because the department said it didn't want lease land to a recycling business. The DHHL also thought her company was too small, even though it never requested Kalaka Nui's financials.
The DHHL simply lost her application the next time.
"It just fell through the cracks. That was the reason. It fell through the cracks," said Alana, whose company now employs 25 people.
"What really astonished me is they said they were sorry. Sorry doesn't cut it. Sorry means you deprived a company of its business."
Hawaiian Homes Commissioner Joe Tassill said he's heard similar complaints from other native Hawaiian businesses.
"Out of towners are reaping the harvest while downtowners are not getting into the game ... Not even allowed to get in the game," Tassill said.
"Is that being discriminatory? I believe that on a couple of different levels."
The Department manages over 100 commercial leases and revocable permits to businesses. Unlike homestead properties, the DHHL is not required to lease these properties to native Hawaiians.
But Alana said she's not looking for special treatment. She only wants her application to be considered for what it's worth and is willing to pay market rents.
The DHHL denied that it treated Alana's company unfairly.
The department says Alana's latest application, like all requests for revocable permits, have been on hold since May because it is reviewing its existing agreements with commercial tenants.
"To say that Hawaiian businesses are being discriminated against ... would be inaccurate," said department spokesman Punialoha Chee.
"We have Hawaiian businesses that have revocable permits."
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