What is the Whitmore Project?
The Whitmore Project is an economic revitalization plan for Central Oahu that will increase statewide food production, create regional job opportunities, protect agriculture lands, engage in government and community partnerships, as well as provide workforce housing.
Why was the Whitmore Project created?
The Whitmore Project is a direct result of the Galbraith Land purchase of 2012. As the land acquisition was being finalized, a plan was needed to turn a simple land purchase, into a successful revitalization of the agricultural industry within Central Oahu. ADC was identified as the appropriate agency to manage the project moving forward.
Who is in charge of the Whitmore Project?
While the ADC is the managing agency of the Whitmore Project, they are also partnering with several Community, County, State, and Federal Agencies/Organizations for the successful implementation of this project.
When did the State begin acquiring agricultural lands in Central Oahu?
Discussion began in 2008 for the State’s first purchase, the Galbraith Estate, but would not be finalized until 2012. Originally the lands were slated for a new subdivision and golf course, members of the community were against the development plans from the beginning. The State, City & County of Honolulu, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, US Army, and a private non-profit entity each dedicated funding to purchase the Galbraith Estate’s 1,700-acre property. As a result of the purchase, 1,200 acres came under the jurisdiction of ADC to be used for agricultural purposes in perpetuity, and the remaining 500 acres surrounding one of Hawaii’s most sacred sites, Kukaniloko, came under the protection of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
Who or what type of businesses are being sought? What type of work opportunities will there be for residents? How will this project create jobs for the community?
Ultimately, new tenants will provide jobs. The community lost many jobs due to the decline of pineapple production. From its infancy the Whitmore Project has worked to incorporate a technology aspect for the purpose of both increased efficiency, but also to provide a wider array of workforce opportunities. Modern farming techniques require food safety, technology, engineering, and mechanics. Employees will receive higher wages because of their skillset needed to perform these duties. Partnering with local schools on curriculum is also critical to ensuring our students are prepared, and ultimately more competitive for these newly created positions. The hope being that this project will provide high paying positions so our local residents can live, learn, work, and play in Central Oahu.
How will this project create affordable housing opportunities for the community?
Through ADC’s partnership with the Hawaii Housing Finance & Development Corporation (HHFDC), there is a current proposal for the development of workforce housing on a small portion of land zoned for residential previous to the land purchase. Tenants will not be allowed live on the parcels they lease from ADC for agriculture. As a result this component is needed to offset any increased demand for housing in the area caused by future job growth.
What crops are local commercial farmers currently growing on the former Galbraith and Dole lands?
Local commercial farmers are growing watermelons, bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, bananas, string beans, mangoes, and other leafy greens. There are no seed corn companies currently farming on the Whitmore Project lands. These lands will be leased exclusively to farmers who focus on food crops, and ranching, with the exception of ornamental farmers grandfathered in at the time of the original land purchase.
Are the nearly 3,000 acres of land near Whitmore and Wahiawa, Helemano Wilderness Recreation Area, which were acquired by the state in October 2018 part of this project?
No, this land purchase falls under the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and will be managed by the Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
Why was the University of Arkansas contracted to plan the Whitmore Community Food Hub Complex and what does that have to do with the Whitmore Project?
In an effort to put together a Master Plan for the project the State contracted the University of Arkansas Community Design Center (UACDC) to develop a preliminary concept for the area. The UACDC partnered with University of Hawaii (UH) to help develop the proof of concept. Based off the UACDC structure, UH was able to develop its own Community Design Center (UHCDC), who has since been contracted to produce master plans for several state, city, and private agencies.
The proof of concept master plan is just that, proof that the concept is plausible and the master plan could be implemented. The current proof of concept is meant to grow and adapt to the needs of the project. The UACDC’s proof of concept are ideas put to paper. Currently no funds have been budgeted for commercial buildings in the agriculture technology park.
What is the Enterprise Zone and how can farmers benefit from this program?
The purpose of the Enterprise Zones (EZ) Partnership Program is to increase business activity, job retention, and job creation in areas where they are most needed and most appropriate via tax and other incentives.
- Businesses which satisfy annual requirements will qualify for the following State benefits for up to seven consecutive years:
100% exemption from the General Excise Tax (GET). The GET exemption applies only to revenues from EZ-eligible activities. Licensed contractors are also exempt from GET on construction done for an EZ enrolled business at their EZ company site
- An 80% non-refundable State income tax credit the first year. This non-refundable credit goes down 10% each year for 6 more years – ending at 20%
- An additional non-refundable income tax credit equal to 80% of annual Unemployment Insurance premiums the first year
Businesses engaged in the Enterprise Zone create jobs by reinvesting the money that they have into growing their workforce. The EZ requires that businesses grow their workforce each year that they participate in the program.