The 2024 Hawaii on the Hill event, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, took place last week at the Capitol Hilton in Washington, DC. Featuring a workshop on resilience, recovery, and disaster preparedness, the event served as a platform for crucial discussions and initiatives led by Keala Peters, Executive Vice President of Education & Workforce Development at the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii.  

Keala introduced the first speaker, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell, who emphasized FEMA’s focus on resiliency, initiatives, and resources to bolster state and local disaster preparedness strategies. Criswell highlighted the importance of resilience strategies, noting that for every $1 spent on hazard mitigation projects, an average of $6 is saved in damages caused by disasters.  

Following Criswell’s presentation, a panel discussion moderated by Tidal Basin’s Chief Executive Officer Daniel A. Craig featured Maui County’s Mayor, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s (HIEMA) Administrator, and the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Craig highlighted his past experiences with FEMA and discussed the lessons learned that have led to improvements in FEMA and other federal and state programs.

Mayor Richard Bissen, Jr. of Maui County shared insights on recovery efforts after the August 2023 wildfires, including establishing the county’s first-ever Office of Recovery, modeled after FEMA’s National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF). He noted that the county is sourcing land for a temporary marketplace for businesses affected by the disaster and highlighted a program by American Express that provides $5,000 grants to 100 small businesses to aid in rebuilding efforts.  

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HIEMA) ‘s Administrator, Ret. Col. James Barros, discussed the state’s focus on building resilience strategies and highlighted the progress in debris clearing, with 90% of residential properties cleared. He also emphasized the importance of robust evacuation routes and public-private partnerships in fostering resilience.  

Carolyn Cawley, President of the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, discussed how the U.S. Chamber supports small businesses with its Readiness for Resilience (R4R) program. Developed in partnership with FedEx, the program guides small businesses in preparedness solutions and offers $5,000 relief funding for those prepared businesses after a federal disaster declaration.  

The panel discussion was closed out by Liz Skillin, Tidal Basin’s State Director of Hawaii, who also helped the Chamber with event coordination efforts. She expressed appreciation for the hard work of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii staff and the workshop participants for sharing their experiences.  

The following day, on June 18, Liz Skillen and Heather Stickler, Tidal Basin’s Chief Marketing Officer, staffed Tidal Basin’s recruiting table at the Kamaaina Career Connect at the City Taphouse in Washington, D.C. The event provided a platform for D.C.-area professionals with ties to Hawaii to explore career opportunities based in Hawaii. Various companies engaged with over 100 attendees about employment opportunities in Hawaii. The Tidal Basin team highlighted the numerous job opportunities in Honolulu and Maui, which can also be found on our careers page.  

Tidal Basin, a key participant in these important discussions, engaged with federal, state, and local officials and attendees. These events underscore the importance of disaster preparedness and community resilience and highlight the collaborative spirit driving recovery efforts and career development within and beyond the Hawaiian Islands.