Hilo: Economy

Hilo: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Hilo has a diversified economy that includes agriculture, tourism, aquaculture, livestock, trade, education, and government.

The Big Island was a world center for the production of raw sugar from 1876 to 1994, when the last plantation closed. Today, the tremendous rainfall produces a genuine paradise of flowers, from exotic anthuriums and orchids to tropical blooms of all sorts. The city, which is the center for the world's largest tropical flower industry, exports fresh cut flowers, sprays, and potted plants from various farmer cooperatives and flower farms. About 1 million acres of the island's total 1.8 million acres are devoted to agriculture, a $500 million per-year industry.

Livestock is an economic mainstay, with sales of beef, hogs, dairy and poultry products, and honey totaling more than $25 million annually. Cattle ranches, including Parker Ranch, said to be the largest privately-owned ranch in the world, produce 70 percent of livestock marketed in the state of Hawaii. Nearly 115,000 cattle are raised on the Big Island and most are shipped to the U.S. mainland and Canada for processing. The Big Island is Hawaii's largest producer of honey, with its honey and queen bee industries producing more than 1 million pounds annually.

Aquaculture, another important industry on the island, has been a mainstay of economic life since the first Polynesian settlers came to the Big Island. Abalone, carp, catfish, clams, flounder, milkfish, moi, mullet, ornamental fish, oyster, prawns, sea cucumber, seaweed, shrimp, snails, sturgeon, tilapia, and rainbow trout are among the fish and seafood harvested. Several types of microalgae are also being cultivated for pharmaceutical and nutritional products. Aquafarms on the Big Island, totaling more than 170 acres, produce 11 million pounds of aquaproducts annually.

Despite serious agricultural problems ranging from drought to harmful bacteria, the Big Island produces more than four-fifths of the state's production of fruit (other than pineapples), including bananas, guavas, oranges, tangerines, and avocados; the bulk of the state's macadamia nuts and papaya; the vast majority of its coffee; crops such as ginger, Chinese cabbage, leaf lettuce, greenhouse tomatoes, and cucumbers; and orchids, anthuriums, and other nursery products for domestic and foreign markets. A recent problem for Hilo's agricultural industry has been the infestation of the coqui frog. The increasing population of this amphibian has threatened the island's ecosystem.

The tourism industry has all but bypassed the town of Hilo due to its lack of a decent beach and the 134 inches of rainfall annually. Since Hilo has never been a tourist destination, the town has retained its historic character and has not suffered from the infrastructure problems associated with high-rises and big-city development. However, it just may be that historic character that is attracting new visitors to the city. Leisure and hospitality services comprised the largest of the major industrial sectors in the area in 2003. According to Hawaii Business Magazine, "In 2003, the town received 219,262 cruise ship passengers from 116 foreign ship calls. By 2007, the city expects to receive 418,600 visitors from 219 domestic and foreign ship calls." Recent marketing efforts have focused on drawing Japanese visitors.

Hilo's Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) is ideally situated adjacent to Hilo Harbor and the Hilo International Airport, less than a mile from downtown Hilo. This 31-acre site is the first such zone designated by the State of Hawaii to attract manufacturers to Hawaii. The FTZ allows companies locating there to import parts for assembly and export the finished product without paying import duties. It was given a boost when NIC Americas, Inc., became its first tenant. NIC Americas manufactures a device that uses electrical arcing to destroy used needles from health care facilities. The company represented Hilo's first significant new manufacturing facility in recent times; if successful it could lead to other FTZ tenants.

Television, film and commercial production also contributes to Hilo's economy. The County of Hawaii hosted 129 film productions from ten countries in 2003-2004, an increase from the prior year. Revenues were stable however, due to an increase in small films and a decrease in large revenue productions.

Items and goods produced: flowers, fruit, cattle, fish, macadamia nuts, coffee

Incentive ProgramsNew and Existing Companies

Local programs

Hawaii's Small Business Development Center Network is a partnership of the University of Hawaii at Hilo and the U.S. Small Business Administration. With the aim of helping small business become established or expand, the Network offers one-on-one counseling, seminars, workshops and conferences.

State programs

Most business incentives are offered at the state level. These include direct financial incentives such as Industrial Development Bonds, a Capital Loan Program, customized industrial training, and investment of public funds in return for equity or ownership positions in private businesses. Tax incentives are also offered along with Hawaii Urban Enterprise Zones Program. Other tax incentives for businesses on the Big Island include no personal property taxes; no taxes on inventory, equipment, furniture and machinery; no tax on goods manufactured for export; no unincorporated business tax; and banks and financial institutions pay only one business tax. High technology businesses can also take advantage of unparalleled tax breaks through legislative initiatives (ACT 221, SLH 2001) and the State Foreign Trade Zone program and Enterprise Zone Partnership.

Job training programs

The Workforce Development Division of Hawaii's Department of Labor and Industrial Relations oversees One-Stop Workforce Assistance Centers, a job placement and training system to help people find work and employers find suitable workers, and the Employment & Training Fund (ETF), a job skills upgrade program for current workers. Employers can receive customized training grants for their workplace or they can nominate a current worker for an established training course.

Job Training Information: Workforce Development Division, Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, Kaikoo Mall, 777 Kilauea Ave., #121, Hilo, HI 96720; telephone (808)974-4126; fax (808)974-4125

Development Projects

Since the fall of the Big Island's sugar plantations in the mid-1990s, "Hilo has transformed itself from a plantation town to a university town," according to Richard West, executive director of the Hawaii Island Economic Development Board in a 2004 article in Hawaii Business Magazine. Hilo has seen the addition of several new science and technology developments in the early 2000s. One of the largest new projects is the Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center (MKAEC), a $28 million facility showcasing the astronomy research conducted on the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano. Located in the University of Hawaii at Hilo's University Park of Science and Technology, the center is expected to attract 200,000 visitors annually when it opens in July 2005. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service broke ground on a $60 million research lab in Fall 2004. In 5 stages, the Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center (PBARC) will eventually encompass 120,000 square feet of laboratories, an administration building, greenhouse facilities, and insect rearing facilities. Additional research dollars will come to Hilo with the opening of the U.S. Forest Service Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, a $12 million forest research laboratory.

Economic Development Information: County of Hawaii Department of Research and Development, 25 Aupuni Street, Hilo, HI 96720; telephone (808)961-8366. Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, telephone (808)586-8842. Hilo Hamakua Community Development Corporation, County of Hawaii, 25 Aupuni Street, Hilo, HI 96720.

Commercial Shipping

Hilo Harbor has an entrance depth of 35 feet, and the harbor basin has a length of 2,300 feet and a width of 1,400 feet. There are 2,787 linear feet of piers, and storage area totals 122,000 square feet of shedded and 492,000 square feet of open space. Plans on the drawing board for the harbor include the separation of the commercial shipping and cruise ship activities to accommodate the increasing demand of cruise lines which would like to dock there.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Hilo's job outlook has been improving slowly and steadily. The city's economic recovery has mirrored the state's reviving economy. The County of Hawaii's unemployment rate has improved from 9.5 percent in 1995 to 5.1 percent in the last quarter of 2004. This is compared to 3 percent for the entire state. According to the FDIC, every major industry in the State of Hawaii posted employment gains in 2004, with the tourism sector benefiting the most. The leisure and hospitality sector and the retail trade sector together accounted for 40 percent of the job growth in the state. Solid job gains were also seen in the health services sector. The FDIC also reported at a 2004 Business Outlook Forum that "economists were upbeat about the state's economic future and respondents surveyed by the Bank of Hawaii expressed near record-high business confidence."

The following is a summary of data regarding the city of Hilo labor force as of 2000.

Size of civilian labor force: 19,902

Number of workers employed in. . .

construction: 1,151

manufacturing: 418

retail trade: 2,224

transportation, warehousing, and utilities: 1,159

finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing: 818

arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services: 1,895

public administration: 1,565

educational, health and social services: 4,505

other services: 880

Average hourly earnings of workers employed in manufacturing: $13.13 (2003)

Unemployment rate: 3% (Hawaii, January 2005)

Largest employers Number of employees
State of Hawaii 7,450
County of Hawaii 2,250
C. Brewer & Co. (holding company) 1,987
Hilton Waikoloa Village 1,200
U.S. Government 850
Mauna Lani Resort Inc. 800
KTA Superstores 776
Mauna Lani Bay Hotel 650

Cost of Living

Median single family home resale price in Hawaii County in 2002 was $194,500. The following is a summary of data regarding key cost of living factors for the Hilo area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: Not reported

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: Not reported

State income tax rate: Ranges from 1.4% to 8.25%

State sales tax rate: 4.0%

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: None

Property tax rate: $9.10 per $1,000 assessed valuation for improved land and buildings; $5.55 per $1,000 valuation for owner-occupied residences

Economic Information: County of Hawaii, Department of Economic Development and Tourism, 25 Aupuni Street Room 219, Hilo, HI 96720; telephone (808)961-8366; fax (808)935-1205. Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, 106 Kamehameha Ave, Hilo, HI 96720; telephone (808)935-7178; fax (808)961-4435; email hicc@interpac.net

Hilo: Recreation

Hilo: Recreation


Hilo's quaint downtown contains wooden clapboard and stucco buildings with corrugated tin overhangs covering the sidewalks. A walk through town reveals flower and fruit stalls, fish markets, butcher shops, soda fountains, seed shops, and luncheonettes. Hilo has many magnificent gardens and parks.

At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a powerful active volcano can be glimpsed firsthand by car or helicopter at the fire pit crater of Kilauea. Rangers can provide maps and directions for optimum viewing of the volcano, if it is active, and for walks along the 11-mile trail. The Visitors Center offers a beginner's class on volcanology featuring films and pamphlets.

The center of the historic downtown is Kalakauna Park, a grassy square with a large banyan tree, a statue of the king, and a reflecting pool. On one side of the square is the 1919 Federal building, which combines Neo-Classical and Spanish Mission characteristics. Opposite the Federal Building is the East Hawaii Cultural Center. Other buildings of interest are the Zen Buddhist Temple, Taishoji Soto Mission, and the Haili Church, built in 1857 by missionaries from New England.

The Naha Stone, a gigantic stone sitting in front of the Hilo Public Library, is said to have been upended by King Kamehameha with his bare hands. Legend has it that only a chief of royal blood can budge it at all and anyone who can turn it over is a potential island king.

The Panaewa Rainforest Zoo is one of the few natural tropical rainforest zoos in the United States. Animals on display include pygmy hippopotamuses, rainforest monkeys, a tapir, jungle parrots, rainforest tigers, and endangered species of Hawaiian birds.

A drive down Banyan Drive offers views of tree-lined lanes with 50-year-old banyan trees first planted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and other celebrities of the times. Old Mamalahoa Highway Scenic Drive, 5 miles north of the city, follows the Hamakua Coast through beautiful rainforest jungles with scenic views of the coast.

Rainbow Falls provides a view of cascading water surrounded by beautiful flowers. Nearby the Boiling Pots are turbulent rapids with deep, swirling pools and falls. Coconut Island, just offshore from Liliuokalani Park, contains picnic tables and shelters and is often used for local cultural events. Leleiwi Beach Park provides another ideal picnic spot and a good place for swimming, snorkeling, surfing, and netfishing since its seawall offers easy access to the ocean. The park's Richardson Ocean Center is a free marine life interpretive center.

The Suisan Fish Market Auction is a daily multilingual auction of tuna and other tropical fish and seafood delicacies. On Wednesdays and Saturdays the Hilo Farmers' Market features breadfruit, papaya, avocados, stalks of ginger and other tropical flowers, as well as craft and gift items from more than 100 area farmers and crafters.

The Hilo Tropical Gardens provide views of a miniature rain forest of waterfalls and tropical flowers surrounded by lily ponds and Oriental bridges. The Nani Mau Gardens feature 20 acres of flowers, fruit trees, walking paths, pools and waterfalls. A nature preserve on 17 acres, the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden boasts hundreds of waterfalls, and numerous varieties of flowers and native animals.

Arts and Culture

The East Hawaii Cultural Center features changing art exhibits and dance and musical performances. The University of Hawaii-Hilo Theatre is the primary center for performing arts in the area.

The Lyman Mission House and Museum, built in 1839, is the oldest structure in Hilo. The restored house is furnished with period antiques that reflect the time when early Christian missionaries lived on the island. An attached museum features exhibits of Stone Age implements, feather leis, a large house made of grass, and various artifacts from Japan, Portugal, Korea, and the Philippines. The museum's Earth Heritage Gallery showcases the island's natural history including specimens of volcanic minerals and Hawaiian land shells and the Island Heritage Gallery showcases native history and culture.

The Pacific Tsunami Museum in Downtown Hilo provides educational exhibits about tsunamis which have caused more damage in Hilo than anywhere on all the Hawaiian Islands.

Festivals and Holidays

Hilo welcomes the Chinese New Year in February with a festival in Kalakuau Park featuring food, crafts, art, exhibitions, demonstrations, fireworks, and traditional dancers. The Kona Brewers Festival in March showcases 60 types of beer and chefs from 25 local restaurants preparing tropical culinary creations. Bluegrass, Hawaiian, and rock music, a "trash fashion show," hula and fire dancers are also part of the festivities. The Merry Monarch Festival, held for a week each spring, is the state's biggest hula festival and draws the most publicity. Started in 1971, the festival offers parades and other attractions in addition to the three-night hula competition, which is the festival's claim to fame. The Ethnic Foods Festival is celebrated in May. October's Hilo Macadamia Nut Festival features a parade, arts and crafts fair, bake-off, music and dance exhibitions, and sports activities.

Sports for the Spectator

The University of Hawaii at Hilo Vulcans offer intercollegiate basketball, volleyball, baseball, and softball competitions. Minor league baseball's Hilo Stars participate in the Hawaii Winter Baseball League.

Sports for the Participant

Water sports reign supreme in Hilo and include fishing, skin diving, and sailing. Also popular are hunting, horseback riding, mountain biking, and other outdoor activities. The Big Island offers black, white, and green sand beaches; among them are Leleiwi Beach Park, a black sand beach that offers swimming, snorkeling and fishing, and Onekahakaha Beach Park, the city's only white sand beach with a safe inlet for swimming. The best surfing is found off Leleiwi and Richardson beaches.

Two golf courses are located in the town of Hilothe Hilo Municipal Golf Course and the Naniloa Golf Club. Sixteen more public and semi-private courses are a short drive away. Skiing is occasionally possible atop Mauna Kea.

Shopping and Dining

Hilo offers a variety of shopping opportunities, ranging from national chain stores to bookstalls and specialty shops that carry such items as Hawaiian handicrafts, wooden bowls, jewelry, and native furniture. There are three major shopping centers in the city, including the multimillion-dollar Prince Kuhio Plaza Shopping Center, Hilo Shopping Center, and Kaiko'o Mall, as well as the revitalized "Main Street" of downtown Hilo. Hilo's Bayfront area along Kamehameha Avenue is home to shops in historic buildings featuring native Hawaiian art and authentic Hawaiian wear. The East Hawaii Cultural Center is a good spot to find authentic, locally made Hawaiian gifts and souvenirs such as books, cards, jewelry, sculptures, and wood objects.

Hilo's residents and visitors enjoy a variety of dining spots that feature Cajun, Mexican, Italian, Japanese, Thai, Filipino, Chinese, Hawaiian, and traditional American fare. The fresh catch of the day is forever popular with visitors, especially the aholehole, or Hawaiian flagtail, a reef fish raised in island ponds. Ahi (tuna), Mahi-Mahi and opakapaka (blue snapper) are also served in area restaurants. Suman, a Filipino sticky-rice sweet wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked in coconut milk, is a favorite dish sold by street vendors in Hilo. Other unique dining spots include an espresso bar featuring pure Kona coffee and various places with evening luaus.

Visitor Information: Big Island Visitors Bureau, 250 Keawe Street, Hilo, HI 96720; telephone (808)961-5797; fax (808)961-2126. Destination Hilo, PO Box 1391, Hilo, HI 96721; telephone (808)966-8331; fax (808)966-9886

Hilo: Education and Research

Hilo: Education and Research

Elementary and Secondary Schools

Hawaii is the only state with a single, unified statewide school system, comprised of seven districts, one of which is the Hawaii District, which covers the island of Hawaii. An elected board of education formulates educational policy and supervises the public school system. Ten members are elected from Oahu and a total of three from all other islands. One non-voting student member is appointed.

The following is a summary of data regarding Hilo's public schools as of the 20032004 school year.

Total enrollment: 26,221 (2002)

Number of facilities elementary schools: 8 junior high/middle schools: 2 senior high schools: 2 other: 3 charter schools

Student/teacher ratio: elementary and secondary, 16.8:1 (statewide average)

Teacher salaries (statewide average) minimum: $29,000 maximum: $58,000

Funding per pupil: $7,455 (statewide average 2002-2003)

There are seven private schools in Hilo. They are Emakaala School; Haili Christian School; Hale Aloha Nazarene School; Kamehamaha Schools; Mauna Loa School; and St. Joseph's Elementary and Junior/Senior high school.

Colleges and Universities

The city of Hilo is the home of three universities. University of Hawaii at Hilo offers two- and four-year programs in areas such as agriculture, arts and sciences, and vocational and technical training. It also currently offers five master's degrees and will offer two doctoral programs in the mid-2000s. Hawaii Community College has career, technical and academic programs. Akamai University is an alternative graduate school designed for mid-career adult students.

Libraries and Research Centers

The Hilo Public Library, part of the Hawaii State Public Library System, contains books, periodicals, videotapes, sound recordings, and provides internet access to its patrons. It is the largest public library on the island and the second busiest in circulation statewide. Other libraries in the city include the Hilo Hospital Medical Library, which features consumer health materials; the State Supreme Court Third Circuit Court Law Library; and the University of Hawaii at Hilo Libraries, whose sytem holds more than 250,000 volumes, 1,650 periodical subscriptions, and 225,000 microfiche titles.

University Park of Science and Technology on the campus of the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UH-Hilo) is home to six U.S. and international observing facilities. They include the British-Canada-Netherlands Joint Astronomy Centre, Gemini North Telescope, Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, Subaru National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, and Smithsonian Submillimeter Array. The Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center is a new state-of-the-art interpretive and research center and planetarium, located in University Park. The Beaumont Agricultural Research Center engages in research on agronomy, animal breeding and nutrition, horticulture, plant pathology, and soil chemistry with particular reference to island crops and plants. The U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is located at the rim of Kilauea, 30 miles from Hilo; Kilauea is said to be the most studied volcano in the world.

Public Library Information: Hilo Public Library, 300 Waianuenue Avenue, PO Box 647, Hilo, HI 96720; telephone (808)933-4650

Hilo: History

Hilo: History

Popular Trading Post Attracts Missionaries, Scientists

The city of Hilo has been a trading place from the time Hawaiian tribes came up the Wailuku River, which separated Hilo from Hamakua, and shouted out what goods they had to offer. In the 1800s, although Honolulu reigned supreme as the principal whaling base of the Pacific, Hilo came in third behind Koloa as alternative anchorages. Foreign ships found anchorages between the coral heads of Hilo's wide bay, and thereafter the dredging of a channel permitted steamships to enter the area.

Missionaries settled Hilo in 1822. The region was first studied scientifically by Lord Byron and his men of the ship Blonde in 1825. Titus Cona, a missionary at Hilo, was the foremost volcanologist of his time and made frequent visits to the volcano.

The beginnings of Hilo's tourist industry date back to the 1870s when Hilo was one of a number of sites on a standard sightseeing route. Particularly popular were visits to the volcano of Kilauea east of Mauna Loa.

By the early 1900s, Hilo's sugar industry was booming and the city became the commercial center of the island. A railroad connected Hilo with other parts of the island. Hilo became the seat of Hawaii County in 1905 was incorporated as a city in 1911.

Hilo Beset by Volcanic Eruptions and Tidal Waves

In March 1868, a volcanic eruption resulted in formidable destruction. The city experienced close calls from the eruption of Mauna Loa in 1942 and in 1984. Two tsunamis have also caused major damage. In 1946 a tidal wave swept half the town inland and then dragged the remains out to sea. Hilo rebuilt and constructed a stone breakwater across the bay to protect the harbor. Another tidal wave destroyed a major part of the waterfront business district and the city's beachfront in 1960, sweeping 61 Hiloites out to sea. Civic leaders, vowing that such destruction would never recur, drained the lowland crescent and raised a new hill 26 feet above sea level and mounted a new government and commercial center. Today, however, the beach is still gone.

Hilo's cultural diversity adds to the city's charm. Japanese, Polynesian, Filipino, Chinese, Puerto Rican, Portuguese, and Russian residents make up the city's mixed-race culture of today. Since their arrival, Japanese people have had an important influence on the city, from serving on the city council to starting entrepreneurial businesses. Business people of all races join the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Japanese newspaper, the Hilo Times, is published in the city.

Hilo: Population Profile

Hilo: Population Profile

City and County Residents

1990: 120,317

2000: 148,667

2003 estimate: 158,423

Percent change, 19902000: 23.6

City Residents

1980: 35,269

1990: 37,808

2000: 40,759

2003 estimate: Not reported

Percent change, 19902000: 7.8%

U.S. rank in 1980: Not reported

U.S. rank in 1990: Not reported

U.S. rank in 2000: Not reported

Density: 750.8 per square mile (2000)

Racial and ethnic characteristics (2000)

White: 15,764

Black or African American: 471

American Indian and Alaska Native: 1,078

Asian: 25,172

Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander: 13,922

Hispanic or Latino (may be of any race): 3,579

Other: 385

Percent of residents born in state: 78.7% (2000)

Age characteristics (2000)

Population under 5 years old: 2,301

Population 5 to 9 years old: 2,859

Population 10 to 14 years old: 2,965

Population 15 to 19 years old: 3,319

Population 20 to 24 years old: 2,806

Population 25 to 34 years old: 4,352

Population 35 to 44 years old: 5,576

Population 45 to 54 years old: 5,842

Population 55 to 59 years old: 2,215

Population 60 to 64 years old: 1,701

Population 65 to 74 years old: 3,473

Population 85 years and older: 2,471

Median age: 38.6 years

Births (North Hilo and South Hilo, 2003)

Total number: 613

Deaths (North Hilo and South Hilo, 2003)

Total number: 519

Money income (1999)

Per capita income: $18,220 (Hilo CDP)

Median household income: $39,139

Total households: 14,577

Number of households with income of . . .

less than $10,000: 1,876

$10,000 to $14,999: 919

$15,000 to $24,999: 1,977

$25,000 to $34,999: 1,824

$35,000 to $49,999: 2,253

$50,000 to $74,999: 2,655

$75,000 to $99,999: 1,650

$100,000 to $149,999: 1,061

$150,000 to $199,999: 196

$200,000 or more: 182

Percent of families below poverty level: 11.1% (51.1% of which were female householder families with related children under 5)

2002 Actual Crime Index Offenses: 6,936 (Hawaii County)

Hilo: Geography and Climate

Hilo: Geography and Climate

Hilo is located on Hilo Bay on the eastern side of the island of Hawaii, 216 miles southeast of Honolulu (on the island of Oahu). The area's topography is mostly sloping, from the tops of the scenic Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa mountains to the sea. Hilo is located less than 30 miles from Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on earth, which has been emitting lava since 1983. Lava flows have been responsible for the destruction of nearly 200 homes since then, and they continue to menace the island. Much of the lava has reached the ocean, enlarging the island of Hawaii by about 500 acres.

The Hilo region has a warm semitropical climate and experiences abundant rainfall without the droughts and shortages that trouble other parts of the island. The rain, which generally falls during the night, keeps the area fresh and green. It also results in many waterfalls. Hilo's rich soil is conducive to the growth of a variety of diversified agricultural products. At the summit of Mauna Kea the temperature ranges from about 31 to 43 degrees. In winter there is frost above the 4,000-foot level and snow above the 10,000-foot level.

Area: 54 square miles (2000)

Elevation: 38 feet above sea level

Average Temperature: January, 71.3 80° F; July, 75.5° F; annual average, 73.0° F

Average Annual Precipitation: 134 inches

Hilo: Transportation

Hilo: Transportation

Approaching the City

The county of Hawaii's airports are Hilo International and Kona International. There are frequent inter-island flights by Aloha Airlines, Island Air, Pacific Wings and Hawaiian Airlines, as well as flights to major U.S. cities; daily direct flights from Tokyo are available. Four hotels are located within a five mile radius of the Hilo airport. A major highway system encircles the island of Hawaii, and driving time from the Kona International Airport to Hilo is about two hours and fifteen minutes. State Highway 19 approaches Hilo from the north and State Highway 11 approaches from the south. State Highway 200 runs west into the interior of the island.

Traveling in the City

The island of Hawaii has more than 1,450 miles of highways. Since the area surrounding the city of Hilo is large, a rental car may be preferable to depending on taxi service. Major streets in Hilo include Kinoole St. and Kilauea Avenue, which run northwest to southeast, and Waianuenue Avenue, which runs east and west. Bayfront Highway follows the coastline and scenic Banyan Drive curves around the major resort area. County bus service is provided by "Hele-On." The Hawaii County Mass Transit Agency offers a Shared Ride Taxi program which provides inexpensive door to door transportation in the cities of Hilo and Kona.

Hilo: Communications

Hilo: Communications

Newspapers and Magazines

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald is Hilo's daily morning paper.

Television and Radio

No network television stations broadcast from Hilo, but all major networks are available for viewing from Hilo via programming from neighboring Oahu. Hawaiian Cable-vision system offers a wide selection of programming. The city is served by four AM and three FM radio stations.

Media Information: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, 355 Kinoole Street, Box 767, Hilo, HI 96721; telephone (808)935-6621; fax (808)969-9100

Hilo Online

Destination Hilo. Available www.destinationhilo.org

Downtown Improvement Association. Available www.down townhilo.com

Hawaii County Home Page. Available www.hawaii-county.com

Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. Available dlir.state.hi.us

Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce. Available www.hicc.biz

Hawaii Tribune-Herald. Available www.hawaiitribuneherald.com/index.html

Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. Available www.gohawaii.com/bigisland

Hilo Public Library. Available www.librarieshawaii.org/locations/hawaii/hilo.htm

State Department of Education School Reports (individual schools). Available doe.k12.hi.us/reports.htm

State of Hawaii. Available www.hawaii.gov

Selected Bibliography

Ball, Pamela, Lava: A Novel (New York: Henry Holt, 1998)



Hilo: Introduction
Hilo: Geography and Climate
Hilo: History
Hilo: Population Profile
Hilo: Municipal Government
Hilo: Economy
Hilo: Education and Research
Hilo: Health Care
Hilo: Recreation
Hilo: Convention Facilities
Hilo: Transportation
Hilo: Communications

The City in Brief

Founded: 1822 (incorporated, 1911)

Head Official: Mayor Harry Kim (since 2000)

City Population

1980: 35,269

1990: 37,808

2000: 40,759

2003 estimate: Not reported

Percent change, 19902000: 7.8%

U.S. rank in 1980: Not reported

U.S. rank in 1990: Not reported

U.S. rank in 2000: Not reported

City and County Population

1990: 120,317

2000: 148,667

2003 estimate: 158,423

Percent change, 19902000: 23.6%

Area: 54 square miles (2000)

Elevation: 38 feet above sea level

Average Annual Temperature: 73.0° F

Average Annual Precipitation: 134 inches

Major Economic Sectors: Agriculture, trade, tourism, government

Unemployment rate: 3% (Hawaii, January 2005)

Per Capita Income: $18,220 (1999, Hilo CDP)

2002 Actual Crime Index Offenses: 6,936 (Hawaii County)

Major Colleges and Universities: University of Hawaii at Hilo, Hawaii Community College

Daily Newspaper: Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Hilo: Introduction

Hilo: Introduction

The city of Hilo is the main port of the island of Hawaii, the largest island in the chain. It is the business and government center of the island, as well as the shipping and service center of the various industries in the vicinity. With more than 100 inches of rain annually, the city is the rainiest in the United States. The rainfall encourages the city's major industriesraising tropical flowers and fruit. Tourism is growing rapidly, spurred in part by the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is 30 miles away. Hilo curves around a crescent bay where the lower foothills of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea emerge. In recent years the city has attracted retirees and escapees from the faster-paced life on other islands. The city boasts a modern, convenient airport and a deep water harbor, and serves as the transportation hub for the island. The city, whose name means "new moon," is slowly transforming itself from a plantation town whose economy centered on sugar cane to a university town that is attracting a slew of new construction and research dollars.

Hilo: Convention Facilities

Hilo: Convention Facilities

The county of Hawaii's Hoolulu Park Complex provides the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium, with 11,342 square feet that can accommodate 3,550 people theater-style, 1,000 people classroom-style, and 500 people banquet-style. The Conference Center at the University of Hawaii at Hilo can host groups as small as 25 and as large as 600, with reception facilities for 1000 people. The Edith Kanakaole Multipur-pose Pavilion, with 18,720 square feet of space, can seat 4,500 people theater-style, 2,000 people for a reception, and 750 people banquet-style. The Seven Seas Luau House's 5,000 square feet can seat 700 people theater- or classroom-style, and 500 people for banquets. The Hilo Hawaiian Hotel offers a 5,040-square-foot banquet room that can accommodate small and large groups. The Hawaii Naniloa Resort offers seating for up to 400 people.

Convention Information: Big Island Visitors Bureau, 250 Keawe Street, Hilo, HI 96720; telephone (808)961-5797; fax (808)961-2126

Hilo: Health Care

Hilo: Health Care

Hilo Medical Center is the city's primary hospital with 225 beds offering general medical, surgical and obstetric care, as well as emergency services. Other east Hawaii medical facilities include the Hale Hoola Hamakua long-term care facility in Honokaa and the Kau Critical Access Hospital in Pahala. The North Hawaii Community Hospital in Kameula serves the 31,000 residents in the northern region of the Big Island. These facilities have led to growth in the island's medical profession and to an expectation that the region will become the health and medical center of the Pacific Rim; this in turn could make the island attractive as a retirement center. Federal funding of $18.4 million was approved in December 2003 to build a Veteran's hospital in Hilo. The hospital will be a 95-bed long-term care and adult day-care center, which will further stimulate the need for medical workers.


Hilo (hē´lō), city (1990 pop. 37,808), seat of Hawaii co., on Hilo Bay of Hawaii island; settled by missionaries c.1822, inc. as a city 1911. The second largest city in the state, a port of entry, and the only metropolitan area on Hawaii island, Hilo is the trade and shipping center for an orchid, papaya, and macadamia-nut region. Fish and prawns are also important, but tourism is the leading source of income. Among Hilo's points of interest are the peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, which rise behind the city; the Lyman Mission House (c.1839); a state park in the bayfront area; and an island park in Hilo Bay. The Univ. of Hawaii at Hilo is also in the city. Hilo was badly damaged by tsunamis in 1946 and 1960; after the latter the lowland area was drained and a hill 26 ft/8 m above sea level was constructed.

Hilo: Municipal Government

Hilo: Municipal Government

The Island of Hawaii has one governmental unit, the County of Hawaii. There is no formal government at the city or municipal level, although Hilo serves as the headquarters for all government activities on the Island. The city is governed by the county of Hawaii, which has a mayor elected for up to two four-year terms and a nine-member council representing each of the county's nine districts during two-year terms. Mayor Harry Kim, first elected to office in 2000, is the first mayor of Korean descent in the United States.

Head Official: Mayor Harry Kim, County of Hawaii (since 2000; current term expires 2008)

Total Number of County Employees: 2,300 (2003)

County Information: Hawaii County, 25 Aupuni Street, Hilo, HI 96720; telephone (808)961-8521