Hawaii tech firms move offices and expand facilities to Mainland

December 28, 2007

Hawaii tech firms move offices and expand facilities to Mainland

Pacific Business News (Honolulu) – by Nanea Kalani Pacific Business News

Four Hawaii tech companies expanded their businesses to the Mainland this year, with two moving their headquarters to California.

While some view the moves as bad news for the state’s economy, others in the tech industry see them as positive growth.

“There’s definitely a glass-half-empty view,” said Yuka Nagashima, president and CEO of the state High Technology Development Corp. “The community tends to view a departure from Hawaii as a death sentence or a result of tech economic development policies that didn’t work.”

She said moving offices to the Mainland may be inevitable for some Hawaii tech firms, citing such reasons as better access to capital, being closer to customers, and lower costs for power and land.

Kona Blue Water Farms, an aquaculture company, announced last month that it will move its headquarters to San Francisco to be closer to its biggest market and have better access to potential investors. The company says 80 percent of its Kona Kampachi-brand yellowtail is sold on the Mainland.

At the same time, Kona Blue Water Farms said it will double its open-ocean facilities on the Big Island, adding to its eight existing cages off the Kona coast.

San Francisco also was the choice for EzRez Software, which moved its headquarters there in May for reasons similar to those of Kona Blue.

Soon after the move, EzRez Software announced it had secured $15 million in financing from two venture capital firms in San Francisco. The founder of one of the investment firms joined EzRez’s board of directors.

The company, founded in Hawaii in 2003, makes software to help businesses enhance their Web presence to sell air, hotel, rental car and vacation services online. It maintains a Honolulu field office.

Meanwhile, Hoku Scientific and Sopogy Inc., both of Honolulu, announced plans this year to build Mainland facilities to expand their solar technology businesses beyond Hawaii.

Hoku is building a $300 million polysilicon plant in Pocatello, Idaho, using about $240 million in pre-payments for polysilicon orders, which is used in solar panels.

Solar technology firm Sopogy said in August it plans to build a demonstration facility under a contract with Avista Utilities of Spokane, Wash. Sopogy will install an undisclosed number of the solar reflectors it builds. The technology takes energy from the sun to heat oil, which is then run through a turban to create electricity.

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