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New Book Zeroes in on Hawaii's High Tech Dilemma

By Jeff Bloom and Rob Kay

The other day we got a somewhat mysterious phone call from a man named Tony Clapes who told us he had read our articles online and said he wanted to meet us. We had never heard of Tony Clapes (pronounced 'claps') but he explained that he'd written a book called "Blue Wave Millenium" and that we might be interested taking a look at it.

Tony's comments were rather understated. When it comes to defining Hawaii's place in the new economy, Blue Wave Millenium is the most important book to come along in quite a while. It's not that Tony has anything startling new to say. Much of it has been said before by academics, those in press and by high tech entrepreneurs.

However, before Clape's Blue Wave Millenium appeared, nobody has ever so carefully and thoughtfully assembled an entire primer on what our state needs to do to compete in the new economy. He discusses why we're having problems turning our state into a high tech paradise and how to get there. The book is available at local bookstores and through Amazon.com and dmpress.com for $7.95.

He breaks down the book into five sections each with bite-sized, easily digestible morsels with subjects such as "Remoteness is No Excuse", "What is a high tech business" and "High Cost of Living". The 69-page book is a quick read and does not bog the reader down with unneeded details. Clapes' prose is clear and precise. He manages to zero in on just about every aspect of doing business in the state with great accuracy. Given that he's only been here for several years, that's quite a feat. Despite his short residency in Hawaii, he brings a formidable knowledge of the high tech industry to our state.

Hailing originally from Connecticut, Clapes has a BE in Aerospace Engineering from the prestigious Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY and a law degree from Yale. For the past 33 years he has practiced "high tech" law. Clapes spent 28 years with IBM where he gained experience both in Europe and the United States. His last position was head of the company's 100-employee Litigation department. Following his career with Big Blue he struck out on his own and decided, after 23 years of visiting Hawaii as a vacationer, that he wanted to live here. Currently Clapes represents strictly Mainland and European Clients and has gained notoriety in legal circles by representing Bristol Technology, a Connecticut company in a lawsuit against Microsoft. Interestingly enough, what Clapes found in Europe was instructive in developing a game plan for Hawaii.

"The most relevant model I found in Europe," he said, "was in Ireland. Like Hawaii, it is an island economy and has experienced years of economic hardship." Clapes noted that Ireland's educated workforce and industrial policy, aimed at attracting high tech business, has reversed a long period of economic decline. This has resulted in a doubling of exports since 1990, the creation of over 200,000 new jobs since 1987, the lowering of unemployment to trivial levels and a growth in take home pay (adjusted for inflation) of 28% since 1990.

"It can be done here," said Clapes. "We can build a technology sector but it's going to take a government-industry-academia partnership to get things done". "My biggest concern," he said, "is the challenge we face in creating a well educated workforce. Without an educated workforce in place, it's going to be very difficult to get Mainland or overseas businesses to set up shop here."

What is his verdict?

"Time is not our friend in this enterprise. We have lost numerous opportunities and stand to lose more opportunities if we do less than all that we can do. A month in the High tech sector is like a year in other businesses. I'm encouraged by the action that the legislature has taken over the past few years but guidance from the executive branch could be stronger. I understand that our state has passed new laws to encourage technology and that's great, but we need to get the word out and let people on the mainland know about our progressive high tech investment policies. We can do much better as high tech marketers. We've done a great job letting the world know about Hawaii as a tourist destination and have to bring the same fervor in the high tech arena. For example it would be a simple thing to install a toll free "High Tech Hawaii" number for out of state inquiries into setting up shop here. Our policies should be razor sharp. I'm happy to help in that department."

For more information on Tony Clapes and his book go to http://www.dmpress.com/bluewave.htm.

Published November 10, 2000

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