Pat Griffin Is All Business

The Lihue Business Association board president aims to make it the place for civil discussion of issues that affect Lihue and the people who live or work there.

Lihue is the heart of Kauai. It is the county seat, and home to the island’s main harbor, airport, higher education institution, major hospital and retail stores. The sizable district, which runs from the northern bank of Wailua River to the western boundary of Kipu near the tree tunnel, also is where the bulk of kamaaina are employed.

“Even if 6,000 people put their heads on pillows at night in Lihue, 12,000 people eat lunch here during the day,” explains Pat Griffin one recent morning at Duke’s overlooking Kapalaki Beach. “So you have a tremendous population of people who are tied to Lihue, even if they don’t cast their ballots in this district.”

Griffin is proud to serve as board president of Lihue Business Association (LBA), which is dedicated to creating a more prosperous future for the area – economically, socially, culturally and environmentally.

“We see the whole tamale,” she says.

And don’t be fooled by the title of the organization.

“The business in our name means we’re making Lihue our business,” says Griffin, a founding member of the nonprofit.

The group, which consists of individuals from all walks of life and all areas of the island, convenes once a month to discuss current local affairs, while representatives from various organizations, as well as government officials, host the programs. Meetings are open to the public and provide a civil forum for discussions.

“We’re looking to help propel current thoughts and celebrate the county and state’s activities in making life better for people,” says Griffin.

Last month, representatives from Ulupono Initiative hosted a forum to discuss Hawaii Dairy Farm on Kauai. Though it is slated to be developed on land outside of Lihue district, Griffin felt it was an important topic to discuss, as it will affect the entire community in some way.

The inaugural LBA forum was hosted by representatives from Big Save and Walmart during a time when big-box stores were at the height of controversy in Lihue. It wasn’t long before the initial program in February 2007 that Griffin was conducting ad hoc meetings with a handful of fellow citizens concerned about Lihue.

“They thrust me up in the front of the room, and they’ve never let me sit down since,” she recalls of how she became board president.

Historically, there was a Lihue Business Men’s Association that focused only on businesses, but participation eventually dwindled. In 2003, representatives from businesses in Lihue began to reconvene. People met to discuss issues, and a few of the participants, including Griffin, went on to become part of the Citizen Advisory Committee for the Lihue Town Core Urban Design Plan because they believed in its agenda. Their efforts helped ratify the plan, which describes the potential revitalization and growth of Lihue. These same people formed the “new,” refurbished LBA and began a membership program ($25 a year per individual).

“We want people to step up to the plate and take personal responsibility and show support for the vision and the roles that the LBA sees for itself,” says Griffin.

LBA continues to provide a voice to the county, state and even federal government. Not only are county personnel regularly invited to host programs, Gov. Neil Abercrombie spoke in November 2013, and state Sen. Ron Kouchi, along with state Reps. Derek Kawakami, Dee Morikawa and Jimmy Tokioka, will host a forum next month regarding the legislative session that will have just wrapped up.

Griffin likes to joke that LBA members are the “official nags for the community.” Pushing to establish a town plan isn’t the only thing they have accomplished. LBA members are responsible for encouraging the county to create a full development plan for the entire Lihue district, as the one it is currently working under was ratified in 1977. The revised plan is on its way to completion, and Griffin is slated to serve on the committee that will bring it to life.

Though she has retired from her work in advertising, Griffin is in no way “retired.” Her voluntary work tends to keep her as busy – or possibly even busier – than her life as an entrepreneur did. She also sits on the county’s Built Environment Task Force and even had time to pen a book for Kauai Historical Society about the history and development of Lihue, which is currently in production.

“I think it’s important to work toward leaving a legacy for the future,” says Griffin, who with husband Tommy Noyes, general coordinator of Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park, has two adult children, local tattoo artist Arthur Griffin-Noyes and former botanist for the National Tropical Botanical Garden Emory Griffin-Noyes. “I have been so privileged, I am such a fortunate woman and I am happy to give back at this point in my life.

“This is a special place with special people. It’s like a marriage; you can’t just assume that things will go well forever. It’s worth the work.”

The next LBA meeting is set for Thursday (April 24) at 7:30 a.m. at Duke’s at Kalapaki. It will include a presentation by the Kauai Planning Department and SSFM International consultants, creators of the Lihue Community Development Plan.