State briefs for November 10

Hawaii printer shuts commercial printing, citing tariffs

HONOLULU — A major Hawaii printer is closing its commercial printing business and laying off 93 people in part because of tariffs the U.S. slapped on imports of Chinese paper.

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A news release from Hagadone Corporation Hawaii Holdings says the import duty increased the cost of the company’s roll stock paper by 25 percent. President Clint Schroeder said Friday this added expense came on top of increased costs for other raw materials and electricity.

He says many publications Hagadone once printed no longer exist, find it cheaper to print on the mainland or have gone digital.

The company is giving affected employees 60 days notice and will provide job training. Hagadone will honor all printing commitments through Jan. 11 and will help customers find other printers.

Hagadone Media Group and Hagadone Digital will continue operations.

Panel advances bill setting processing deadline for permits

HONOLULU — Honolulu officials have advanced a measure mandating that building permits for one- and two-family dwellings are processed within 60 days.

The council’s Zoning and Housing Committee approved the bill Wednesday, sending it forward for a final reading by the council.

The council is likely to consider the measure at its meeting next week.

The Department of Planning and Permitting had sought to postpone the bill. The 60-day processing deadline proposed for the department would lead to delays in processing permits for larger projects, said Kathy Sokugawa, the department’s acting director.

“It will mean that other permits, including those that have higher value . than single-family dwellings, such as commercial tower buildings or some of the other (mixed use) projects like Sky Ala Moana may be deferred further in their processing time because we only have so many resources to go around,” Sokugawa said. “So we just want to make sure that we understand what the opportunity cost of this bill is.”

The Sky Ala Moana is a hotel and residential project that’s planning to build two towers with 300 hotel rooms, 388 market-rate residential units and 90 affordable housing units. The housing committee approved the project at the meeting Wednesday.

The department has limited resources, and the competitive job market has made it difficult for the agency to hire and retain employees, Sokugawa said. Her staff is working on options to mitigate the problem, but it will take time, she said.

“There’s a huge chasm between what we’re paying them and the responsibility we’re giving them,” Sokugawa said.

Construction industry leaders have backed the measure, saying they have lost contract jobs because of the lengthy processing times for permits.

Hawaii expects pilot shortage to worsen with school closures

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s shortage of pilots could lead to fewer flights and higher prices if the problem is left unchecked, aviation officials said.

Three flight schools on Oahu have closed over the last 18 months, citing high operating costs and diminishing student enrollment numbers.

The closings could worsen the shortage, which became more pronounced when the University of Hawaii closed its flight program in 2015.

“We just cannot generate the number of pilots we need,” said Pat McNamee, president of the General Aviation Council of Hawaii.

The state needs about 100 new pilots each year to replace the pilots who have reached the mandatory retirement age of 65, McNamee said.

“We try to teach as many pilots as we can, but we’re limited by facilities, air space, and obviously money. It’s very expensive,” McNamee said.

Charter flight companies are already seeing the effects of the pilot shortage, and it could eventually reach the big airlines, officials said.

The shortage has the potential to cause more harm in Hawaii than in other states, said Peter Forman, a Hawaii aviation expert.

“I think it will be in a worse situation both because there is fewer pilots being trained here than other places, and because we depend so heavily on air travel,” Forman said.

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It could also affect air safety, McNamee said.

“We’ve really lowered the minimum qualifications to get into the airlines because we’re running out of pilots,” McNamee said.

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