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Gay & Robinson Operations in Hawaii

Articles and information about Gay & Robinson and their sugar operations in Hawaii. Gay and Robinson was founded in 1889.

The Robinson family purchased the Hawaiian island of Niiahu in 1864 for $10,000. In 1889 Frances Gay and Auburey robinson (who were cousins) founded Gay & Robinson in Makaweli on the island of Kauai.

The sugar industry in Hawaii was at its peak in the 1930's. During those years more then 30% of all jobs in Hawaii were in the sugar industry.

During World War II sugar workers were declared "essential workers" therefore their wages were frozen and they were not allowed to leave their jobs. In 1944 there was a state-wide sugar strike in Hawaii and all sugar workers except the workers at Gay & Robinson participated.

In 1987 Gay & Robinson set a new sugar production world record by producing 17.42 tons of sugar per acre.

1994: Gay & Robinson purchases mill and assets of Olokele Sugar.

-1995: All but five of Hawai'i's remaining sugar plantations are closed or announce plans to close. Gay & Robinson continues to operate on 7,500 acres.

-March 1996: Congress approves a federal sugar-support program considered vital to the state's struggling sugar industry.

-June 1996: Gay & Robinson enters into talks to establish a factory that would produce electricity for sale to the island's power company, Kauai Electric.

-October 1996: Waialua Sugar ends O'ahu's sugar industry, leaving sugar production on only two islands and four companies: on Maui, HC&S and Pioneer Mill; on Kaua'i, Gay & Robinson and Amfac Sugar Kauai (the combined operation of Lihue Plantation and Kekaha Sugar).

-September 1996: The Federal Emergency Management Agency gives the county a national award for its plan to install a conveyor system to burn debris from Hurricane Iniki. FEMA instead decides to bury all the trash. Gay & Robinson had anticipated a five-year, $5 million income stream.

-August 1997: Sen. Daniel Inouye tells Kaua'i community leaders that if they want the booming Pacific Missile Range Facility to survive, they also must save West Kaua'i's struggling sugar industry.

-November 1997: Gay & Robinson institutes weekslong furloughs for 180 of its 273 workers - a move to trim costs as the company faces losses because of lower sugar prices and reduced production.

-March 1998: Several dozen congressmen attack sugar price supports, repeating their claim that propping up sugar prices amounts to corporate welfare and should be abolished. At the time, Hawai'i was producing 340,000 tons of sugar annually, down from about 1 million tons 15 years before.

-1998: The Robinson family that owns Ni'ihau practically shuts down Ni'ihau Ranch as the family scrambles to pay its share of an estate tax bill in excess of $1 million. Keith Robinson, who owns the island with his brother, Bruce, and mother, Helen, stops the firm's cattle and sheep ranch, shuts down its charcoal-manufacturing business and sells the helicopter it has used for medical emergencies and for flying sport hunting tours to Ni'ihau.

-April 1999: Gay & Robinson invests $2 million in equipment, part of a five-year, $5.5 million investment when it bought the assets of C. Brewer's Olokele Sugar Co.

-February 1999: Gay & Robinson announces that the century-old Robinson family home at Kapalawai will become a museum and a 250-unit bungalow hotel. The house was built about 1897 and is the former residence of Eleanor Robinson, who died in 1989.

-2000: Legislators set aside $5 million to lend to Gay & Robinson to finance planting on lands in Kekaha, Kaua'i, held by Amfac Kauai Sugar.

-2006: Gay & Robinson estimates losses of $8 million to $12 million, including an estimated $4.5 million in crop losses over three years from damage to standing sugar fields, plus the cost of repairing the plantation's 100 miles of roads and flood-damaged irrigation systems.

-Sept. 10, 2008: Gay & Robinson announces it will exit the sugar industry on Kaua'i and try to lease its operations to Pacific West Energy LLC, a company that produces ethanol. G&R stopped planting sugar cane on September 10, 2008.

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