Pacific Business Center Program wins national award for economic assistance

University of Hawaiʻi
Les Ozawa, 808-956-6286
Pacific Business Center Program
Posted: Sep 24, 2002

The University of Hawaiʻi‘s Pacific Business Center Program (PBCP) recently won a national award for helping with plans for a community of Pacific islanders to resettle their atoll home. Plans call for the Rongelap islanders to return to their atoll home next year, after having been forced to leave their atoll twice (the second time in 1985), because of radiation remaining from nuclear testing on nearby Bikini atoll in the 1950‘s.

The 2002 Project of the Year award from the National Association of Management and Technical Assistance Centers (NAMTAC) recognized PBCP for coordinating the works of faculty, students and interns to prepare various studies and plans to help the Rongelap Atoll Local Government prepare for the resettlement of Rongelap, an atoll about 400 miles northwest of Majuro in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

The atoll has been declared safe for habitation, and US government reparation funds are now being used to assist in its resettlement. In helping the Rongelap government prepare the atoll for returning Rongelapese, PBCP enlisted and coordinated a broad spectrum of experts, students and interns from the University of Hawaiʻi, the College of the Marshall Islands, Harvard University, Hawaiʻi Pacific University, and the Center for Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture (CTSA).

· UH Botany Department faculty members and their students prepared a preliminary ecological assessment of the atoll.· UH School of Architecture faculty members and their students prepared designs for ten different community buildings· Graduate students and interns from the University of Hawaiʻi, Harvard University, and Hawaiʻi Pacific University conducted studies on the feasibility for an ecotourism/research facility; researched the establishment of long distance education for Rongelap; and helped train students from the College of the Marshall Islands to conduct a community survey to determine the desires of Rongelapese resettling on the atoll.

The Micronesia extension agent for CTSA prepared a preliminary survey to determine the commercial aquaculture potential in Rongelap.· PBCP also prepared a comprehensive economic development strategy for Rongelap, with assistance from graduate students from the College of Business Administration and faculty members from the UH Pacific Islands Studies Program.

"We were innovative in using in the Pacific Islands, native speakers from the College of the Marshall Islands to conduct the Participatory Rural Appraisal in a survey of the community. PRA is a relatively new technique to accurately determine what people in a rural community really think about issues that affect them," said Dr. C. L. Cheshire, who oversaw the project for PBCP.

"Building local capacity is one of our priorities," said PBCP director, Dr. Tusi Avegalio. "The award recognizes the importance of building local capacity through local institutions of higher learning. By training and using indigenous students, we can tap the depths of indigenous wisdom attained through centuries of island living. This is the best way to help build sustainable economies in these fragile island ecosystems. The NAMTAC award is also a tribute to the tremendous capabilities of the University of Hawaiʻi to create sustainable development, in Hawaiʻi as well as in other isolated Pacific islands."

PBCP ( was established in 1979 to provide its governments, companies, and institutions in Hawaiʻi with business-related services (financial analysis, management reviews, business plans, etc.). Major funders of PBCP include the US Department of Commerce‘s Economic Development Administration, the US Department of Interior‘s Office of Insular Affairs and the UH College of Business Administration. The Center serves Hawaiʻi and other Pacific Basin islands, including American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republics of Palau and the Marshall Islands. Papalii Dr. Failautusi Avegalio directs PBCP, with program oversight provided by Dr. Joyce Tsunoda, University of Hawaiʻi Senior Vice President and Chancellor of Community Colleges.

The National Association of Management and Technical Assistance Centers (NAMTAC) is a not-for-profit association of 111 members in 41 states, Guam and Puerto Rico. NAMTAC ( provides advocacy, information, and a forum to enhance the performance of organizations providing business, economic development, and technical assistance to businesses and communities.