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Gov. Lingle a Guest at the Small Business Awards Lunch

This article originally appeared on Hawaii Tribune Herald’s website, and can be found here: http://archive.lingle.hawaii.gov/govgallery/news/stories/2005/hi-tribune%20guest.pdf/

By Tribune Healrd

Aloha Machine & Welding, Ltd., is a story of success that was spun from sugar.

The firm’s three owners worked at Hilo Coast Processing Co. when the sugar industry was in the throes of demise on the Big island in 1993.

When the end was near at Hilo Coast, however, these three started laying their plan for the future.

Dennis Matsui, Modesto Revilla Jr., and Robert Acasio bought a small machine shop in Hilo. With hard work they established their own business from the bottom up, developing management and financial skills that carried them through the tough times of the 1990s.

“It was difficult,” said Matsui. HCPC helped by allowing them to work convenient shifts so they could develop their business before they lost their jobs. “We were working 16 hours a day,” he said. “But it was worth it. I never thought we be standing here today.”

In just the past 10 years, the enterprising trio has created 36 jobs — mostly for unemployed sugar plantation workers — and generated more than $3 million in annual revenues.

In recognition of their success, on Monday the Small Business Administration awarded the owners of Aloha Machine & Welding the Small Business Persons of the Year award in Hawaii.

“This is the true American success story,” said Jane A. Sawyer, assistant district director for SBA in Hawaii, who presented the award Monday at a Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce luncheon attended by Gov. Linda Lingle. “There were a lot of naysayers, but they showed ’em.”

Amy Honda and Calvin Kang, now retired, of Bank of Hawaii nominated Aloha Machinery for the award. Matsui, Revilla and Acasio will represent Hawaii next week in Washington, D.C., at a national SBA recognition dinner.

While Aloha Machine & Welding is a Big Island and statewide winner, Sawyer said SBA officials for the first time could not choose a single winner for the Big Island award and selected Rodney Inaba and the late Kevin Tamanaha, founders of Kamuela Kayak Corp., as co-winners of the Big Island Small Business Persons of the Year award.

Sawyer said the company’s success is a “true phenomenon” in Kohala, where in 1996 Kamuela Kayak was started in the midst of an uncertain economy. But since the beginning, more than 30,000 people have visited Hawi to “flume da ditch,” which means taking a scenic kayak ride down one of Hawaii’s historic plantation ditches.

Kamuela Kayaks is now one of Kohala’s largest employers with 14 full-time employees — more during peak periods — and revenues growing each year. Inaba, in accepting the award, dedicated it to his late partner, Kevin Tamanaha, who recently died. Emily Potter of Bank of Hawaii nominated Kamuela Kayak for the award.

On Monday the SBA also honored Hilo businesswoman Alice Moon as the 2005 Women in Business Champion of the Year. “As a small business owner herself, she serves as a role model, mentor and friend to an expanding network of vendors, micro business, colleagues and friends on the Big Island,” Sawyer said. “It’s all about attitude. She takes every opportunity to help other women in business.”

Moon, owner of Alice Moon & Co., an events planning and PR company, organizes events for woman-owned firms that comprise 80 percent of her vendors. She offers discounts to women starting their own businesses and attempts to involve more women in the Chamber of Commerce, Big Island Visitors Bureau, Destination Hilo and the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association.

Beth Dykstra of Bank of Hawaii nominated Moon for the SBA award.

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