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Thursday, May 29, 2014

TRANSITIONS: Part 12A--Return to the University of Hawaii--The Pacific International Center for High Technology Research

Two and a half years into my Senate assignment, I received a letter from President Fujio Matsuda of the University of Hawaii.  He basically said, a long time ago the UH only allowed him a three year leave, so that must be the policy, or something like that.  Senator Matsunaga had given me a rather hefty raise in anticipation of this ultimatum.  However, I did not want to give up tenure, and, frankly, it was time for me to strike out on my own. so I went home.  I never did, but I should have thanked Fuj, for the 80's and 90's at the University of Hawaii were my most productive.  This three year experience in the U,S. Congress provided the base from which I could develop a fabulous academic career.

The difficulty I had in this transition had to do with real estate.  Early into our stay in Skyline Towers (interesting how things have changed, for this luxury complex is now dominated by Muslim owners, and it is reported they cheered 9/11), we saw an ad for a lottery (these were the days when demand far exceeded supply in DC) for those desiring to live in Montibello, a future condo to be located on the only hill south of Alexandria:

With the Potomac River to the right, the apartment I "won" had a view of the Washington Monument.  We kept visiting the site to see the building grow.  A particularly attractive feature was that the new Yellow Metro Line terminated at the development as the Huntington Station, and was to open just about when we had access to Montebello.

Unfortunately a month before our move, I got that fateful letter.  To make a long story short:
  • Our Honolulu condo, Coronet, was leased for another six months.
  • We had to sell our unit in Skyline Towers.
  • We had to sell our unit in Montebello.
I returned a few weeks early to find something, and my real estate agent, Stan Lizama, indicated to me that an interesting penthouse just was made available an hour ago.  So we went to Penthouse A2 in Craigside, and I immediately decided to purchase it.  The building had just opened, the partners only owned the Penthouse A units, but one of them just put his up for sale.  We had special house rules on our floor, which still prevail.  That was 32 years ago.  After a couple of trying years, I was able to sell the other three properties.

A few months before I left DC, the new dean of engineering, Paul Yuen, dropped by my office, and we brainstormed the thought of creating our own funding agency.  We wanted it to be international to focus on technology transfer.  Here is how the organization unfolded:
  • I asked Senator Matsunaga to give a talk to the American Society of Civil Engineers, proposing this concept.
  • Governor George Ariyoshi liked it, and submitted a bill, calling the organization the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (which should have been called the Pacific International Center for Technology Transfer).
  • Various Hawaii Senate chairmen, Ben Cayetano, Richard Matsuura and Ann Kobayashi, and the Hawaii House, supported the bill, and at the end of the session we had a sum of money to start  PICHTR.
Click on PICHTR to read the details.  However, I repeat from one of my earlier postings (with a couple of updates) just one of a hundred things we had to do for PICHTR:

During the mid-80's I visited Tokyo a number of times, giving speeches at various universities and  government agencies about PICHTR.  One meeting in particular was key, for Professor Yasuo Mori of the Tokyo Institute of Technology accompanied me on a visit to Ambassador Mike Mansfield (left).  Senator Matsunaga, who was a former colleague in the Senate, had alerted Mansfield about this meeting, so the Ambassador magnanimously let us use his limousine to take us to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and, further, asked his secretary to call that office to announce our arrival.  We were royally welcomed by a host of officials, taken to a conference room, where the director of Second North American Desk scolded us for twenty minutes.  SCOLDED US FOR STUPIDITY!!!   This never happened again in my life.

Essentially, he said we were doing this all the wrong way, and what we had to do was ask President Ronald Reagan to tell Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone that our countries should work together on this project.  Before I could ask any questions, he stormed out of the room and the meeting was over.

Luckily, the assistant, Shinichi Nishimiya (left, who is today the Japan Ambassador and Counsel General to New York City--he was named the future Ambassador for Japan to China, but a few years ago, soon thereafter, suffered a heart attack and instantly passed away) , was present, and he asked that we later meet to discuss this matter.  On the ride back to the American Embassy, I was distraught, but Professor Mori was in awe and ecstasy.  This is where experience and cultural differences come into play.  Mori said this was the first meeting he had ever been in with a Japanese government official where he told us exactly what to do.  But, sure, what were the odds of a Democratic senator getting a Republican President to do anything?  Anyway, I did a couple of days later have a long three hour lunch with Nishimiya and briefed him on the effort.  Very unusual meal, for we started with a bottle of white wine, and finished with cognac while the staff was just standing, waiting for us to leave.  This was lunch.

A few months later, in 1986, Senator Matsunaga, a Democrat, voted with the Republicans on a free trade bill.   President Ronald Reagan rewarded Matsunaga by asking him to catch a ride with him to the Tokyo G8 Summit.  Matsunaga's administrative assistant called me and asked what favor should Matsunaga ask of the President.  I indicated OTEC and PICHTR would be ideal.

On Air Force One (the plane itself is now at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley) Matsunaga wanted to ask the President to support a U.S.-Japan project on OTEC, but Donald Regan guarded the door to the President's area.  When Regan went to the restroom, Matsunaga knocked on the door.  Nancy answered, and Ronald was putting on his pants, but they told him to please come in.  Matsunaga gave them a book of proverbs and asked the President to please support the OTEC/PICHTR project.  Returning, Donald Regan was in controlled fume about the nerve of Matsunaga to bother the President.

Unfortunately, Reagan was already showing symptoms of dementia, but fortunately, National Security Agency head John Poindexter (right) was present.  His grandfather was a former governor of Hawaii (in fact, he was the governor who telephoned President Franklin D. Roosevelt about 7December1941 attack), and with a wink, Poindexter indicated to Matsunaga that he would follow-through.  Surely enough, in the meeting with Nakasone, the first item on the agenda was the PICHTR OTEC project.  They agreed in principle to cooperate.  The interpreter was Shinichi Nishimiya, who, when he returned to his office, wondered what to do, as no money and period were mentioned.  So he arbitrarily wrote in his report that Japan would provide a million dollars/year for eight years towards the PICHTR OTEC project.  Every penny was awarded.

During my decade or so as Vice President of Development (Paul was President), the programs I directed secured approximately $50 million in grants, mostly to build an OTEC plant (left) at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority and a biomass-to-methanol facility (right) at the HC&S Paia sugar factory on Maui.  The key members of those teams went on to work for the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute of the University of Hawaii, and are still there.  I might add that during this period PICHTR did not pay me a cent, although I did have a generous travel budget, one reason why I am currently headed for 3 million miles on Star Alliance.

PICHTR still functions today and provides funding for technology transfer.  Included among their current projects are:
  • Energy Excelerator
  • Hawaii Health Information Exchange
  • Hawaii Technology Development Venture
  • National Disaster Preparedness Training Center
  • UH-PCSU - Environment, Ecosystem Management and Conservation
In many ways, they remain poised for another glorious attempt to Save Planet Earth and Humanity.

NEXT:  Part 12B--Development of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute.


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