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DBEDT NEWS RELEASE: HTDC small business grantees honored with National Tibbetts Award at The White House

Posted on Jan 20, 2017 in Latest Department News

HONOLULU – Two Hawaii-based businesses and recipients of the High Technology Development Corporation’s (HTDC) Hawaii Small Business Innovation Research (HSBIR) grant, have received the national Tibbetts Award for 2016. The U.S. Small Business Administration presented one of its highest honors to Makai Ocean Engineering and Referentia Systems Incorporated with the awards at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 10 at the White House.

The national award is named for the founder of the SBIR program, Roland Tibbetts, and recognizes SBIR participants that particularly exemplify the purpose of the program. Winners were selected based on the economic impact of technological innovation, and the extent to which the innovation serves federal research and development needs, encourages diverse participation and increases the commercialization of federal research.  HTDC provides matching grants for federal SBIR awardees enabling local, small research companies to accelerate their development of innovative technologies and be competitive in today’s business economy.

“Congratulations to Makai Ocean Engineering and Referentia Systems for receiving this distinguished national award,” said DBEDT Director, Luis P. Salaveria.  “This recognition highlights the importance of growing our innovation economy, and shows what can happen when you combine hard work and creativity with innovation and a strong entrepreneurial spirit.”

“Hundreds of companies participate annually in the SBIR program nationwide, and to have two from the Hawaii innovation community recognized for this major honor is compelling news,” said Robbie Melton, CEO and executive director of HTDC. “The successes of cutting-edge companies like Referentia and Makai underscore the tremendous potential in Hawaii, and the importance of investing in our state’s small businesses and mentorship programs to foster dynamic projects with local companies.”

Referentia Systems Incorporated is developing technology solutions for software-defined networks and cybersecurity, enabling organizations to support modern systems efficiently by transforming legacy systems and removing technology barriers.

Makai Ocean Engineering is a diversified ocean engineering company providing design and development services, with practice areas, including engineering for ocean-based renewable energy and large underwater pipelines, as well as software for planning and simulation.

“It’s exciting for two local companies to be recognized nationally for this prestigious award, which is a testament to the strength of the tech community in Hawaii,” said Duke Hartman, vice president at Makai Ocean Engineering. “As a small business in rural Waimanalo, the key to staying at the top of our field is to hire only the best talent, with an emphasis on hiring locally. HTDC’s support allows us to develop high-value technology and employ world-class engineers, who in turn help us to invent new technologies and win new contracts in a virtuous cycle. Hiring top talent is a gift that keeps on giving – to us and Hawaii!”

“Creating tech solutions is a natural for us, but the marketing, branding and expanding of our business plan was a different world to navigate,” said Nelson Kanemoto, CEO of Referentia. “Beyond the matching grant funding which enabled us to jump-start development of key projects, the support of HTDC to help us market, grow and attract resources for our success was invaluable to bring our vision to fruition. Having Hawaii-based companies honored with these kinds of opportunities and acknowledgements is an exciting reflection of our vibrant innovation community.”

About HTDC (High Technology Development Corporation)

HTDC is a state agency, attached to the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT).  HTDC’s mission is to facilitate the development and growth of Hawaii’s high technology industry.  HTDC is providing the capital, building the infrastructure and developing the talent to foster innovation and diversify Hawaii’s economy. HTDC’s 80/80 Initiative is to create 80,000 new tech and innovation jobs that will provide high paying jobs for Hawaii residents.

ABOUT DBEDT (Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism)
DBEDT is Hawaii’s resource center for economic and statistical data, business development opportunities, energy and conservation information, and foreign trade advantages. DBEDT’s mission is to achieve a Hawaii economy that embraces innovation and is globally competitive, dynamic and productive, providing opportunities for all Hawaii’s citizens. Through its attached agencies, the department fosters planned community development, creates affordable workforce housing units in high-quality living environments, and promotes innovation sector job growth.

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Media Contacts: 

Robbie Melton
High Technology Development Corporation
Office: (808) 539-3615
Email: [email protected]

Christine Hirasa 
Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism
Phone: (808) 587-9006
Mobile: (808) 286-9017
Email: [email protected]

Jocelyn Collado or Scott Kim
Becker Communications, Inc.
Phone: (808) 533-4165
Email: [email protected] or [email protected]