Kaua’i Federal Credit Union in Lihue, Hawaii is developing an “Economic Resiliency Center” to promote financial inclusion, economic development and the environment, as well as build deeper ties to its local community.
Executives at the $144 million credit union began scouting locations for the center within the city of Kapa’a more than six years ago as part of Kaua’i FCU’s outreach effort to underserved consumers. Last year he jumped at the opportunity to buy a building that once housed a local furniture retailer. The credit union purchased the property in October and is currently in the early planning stages of the center.
Monica BelzPresident and CEO of Kaua’i FCU, explained how the credit union’s affinity for multi-generational business owners, as well as women entrepreneurs and business owners, positioned Kapa’a as a prime location
“It’s the most populous region on the island and has a ton of our underserved groups, so we’ve been focused on building capacity in that region for a long time… Now we finally have an opportunity to open an economic resilience center and branch in that region, so it’s really special for us,” Belz said.
As a certified community development financial institution, the credit union plans to offer a suite of services, such as housing stability resources, support for small businesses and nonprofit organizations, as well as access to public-private partnerships.
Belz emphasized that the central focus of the project is not the branch, but rather the opportunity for local members to co-locate with the credit union and foster the economic resilience of the entire island. Executives are currently still in the vision-setting stage and are in the process of gathering feedback from indigenous community elders, as well as other organizations such as the Kaua’i Museum.
“Nonprofit capacity building is a big deal and it’s really aligned to figure out how to attract the right partners in this space that really complement this focal point and mission of economic resilience for the island and can help build that capacity with us”, Belz said.
credit unions and banks they are trying to respond to the emphasis on climate change issues among regulators and consumers. Those concerns have prompted financial institution leaders to make changes ranging from operating procedures to supply chain partnerships.
As part of redesigning the building to better suit the needs of the center, which involves delving into the “living history” of the surrounding environment, the credit union plans to get ideas on how best to modernize the space, as well as as ecologically sound forms. building materials — from nature.
Jamie Miller, director of biomimicry and a senior associate at B+H Architects, began work on the project in December after Belz saw parallels between his work with native communities in Canada and the perspectives of tribal elders on Kaua’i.
“Biomimicry is innovation inspired by nature… Whether it’s circularity, passive design, material use, or any of those things that are hot topics in sustainability or [environmental, social and corporate governance]I always say that nature has already made them,” Miller said.
Miller emphasized that by implementing concepts derived from biomimetics, institutions passionate about environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues you can make measurable progress toward climate goals and better predict upcoming design trends.
“The power of biomimicry is that it will also teach you what to do next,” Miller said. “By participating in that conversation, you will be at the forefront of sustainable design and find more efficient ways to get things done.”
Trade in products related to pineapples, rice and sugar remain vital to strengthening the island’s economy, said Mason K. Chock, a Kaua’i County Council member and campaign consultant.
“Because we are an island in the middle of the ocean with finite resources, the concepts of circular and regenerative economies are something that not only comes from our ancestors and their knowledge historically, but is also faced here on a daily basis,” Chock said. .
After the initial exploration stage, Kaua’i FCU plans to begin formally defining the physical space and securing partnerships with organizations.
“When we look at how this place can be a cooperative of ideas, it really asks us to create places to listen to each other and, more importantly, listen to where we came from,” Chock said.