House committee considers Gateway Center renaming request


The list of reasons why Hawaii Island legislators are proposing renaming the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority Gateway Center after Guy Toyama takes up nearly two pages.

Toyama, who died in 2012, was an ardent and enthusiastic supporter of NELHA’s mission.

“He was a most joyful and precious ambassador of food and energy sustainability,” the introduction to a petition supporting the proposal on change.org begins. “His tireless enthusiasm for transforming our lives, his passion for renewable energy, and his ability to bring attention to the important research, products and services of the Lab have made the Gateway a focal point for sustainability on Hawaii Island.”

Michael Kramer, Toyama’s friend and head of the Guy Toyama Fund, said renaming the Gateway Center is a way to honor Toyama for his work in the arena of sustainability.

“Our real reason for doing it is that Guy breathed life into the Gateway Center like nobody else,” Kramer said.

Toyama was a partner in the first deep seawater desalination plant, according to House Concurrent Resolution 51, which was set to be heard in committee this morning. The resolution asks the NELHA board to rename the center, but doesn’t require them to do so.

Toyama served as the executive director of Friends of NELHA and worked as an ambassador with Japanese visitors and officials to promote partnerships.

According to the resolution, Toyama’s company, H2 Technologies, had recently “demonstrated the use of compressed hydrogen as a transportation fuel, and as a result, fundamentally changed the pre-existing paradigm on traditional sources of transportation fuel to provide for a … healthier and cleaner environment.”

But the proposal, forwarded to both chambers of the state Legislature isn’t without controversy, Kramer said. The NELHA board consists of members from around the state, he said, and some have expressed a desire to honor others, including some influential politicians, by renaming the center in their honor.

People from other parts of the state may not realize all of Toyama’s accomplishments and efforts, he added.

“That’s because Guy was humble,” he said. “A lot of what he did, he just did.”

Rep. Nicole Lowen, D-Kona, and Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, Ka‘u, introduced identical resolutions in their respective chambers.

“Guy Toyama was one of the most extraordinary people that many of us met in West Hawaii,” Green said Thursday. “We thought this was the right gesture.”

He acknowledged that the idea may not have consensus, but said he wanted to bring the proposal to the public and generate discussion.

Lowen said she didn’t anticipate how controversial naming buildings could be until she brought her resolution forward. She said she expects the committee to move the resolution forward.

“The ultimate decision remains with NELHA,” she added.