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Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Friday, January 5, 2001

A new year and career
in Silicon Valley

THE bursting of the dot-com bubble may have stricken high-tech investors and wiped out thousands of jobs last year, but it hasn't deflated the enthusiasm of one of Silicon Valley's newest residents, 30-year-old Keith Kamisugi.

Mug shotYou may not know the name but you'd recognize the mug: He was the corporate face on local TV newscasts whenever there was a problem with the telephone company. "We are trying to restore phone service as quickly as possible," he'd say somberly but with all sincerity.

For three years, Kamisugi served as spokesman for Verizon Hawaii after working in state government in both the Waihee and Cayetano administrations.

Then, late in 2000, he surprised family members, friends and business acquaintances like me by finally giving into a bad case of West Coast wanderlust.

The nice Japanese boy next door -- who attended public schools in Mililani and who went on to become student body president at the University of Hawaii at Manoa -- was suddenly sending online greetings from Palo Alto, Calif.

He had relocated to Silicon Valley to become a dot-com nerd!

A public-relations dot-com nerd, to be more specific. He is now an account executive at Niehaus Ryan Wong, a leading PR agency that caters to high-tech industry icons like Yahoo! and Apple iMac. (The Wong in NRW is La Pietra/Hawaii School for Girls graduate Carrie Wong.)

"It wasn't the state's economy, politics or mindset that prompted my move. It's too easy to blame these conditions without actively engaging in solutions," says Kamisugi.

"Nor has the dot-com bubble burst as much as a New Economy marketplace is maturing after being overinflated and overhyped. The next major evolution is coming and I wanted to be at ground zero."

He has settled into mainland mode quite nicely. Kamisugi has joined the board of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center in San Francisco, and is helping to reunite other Hawaii expatriates in California via networking groups like the Pau Hana clubs (Web site references:, and

WHAT do you miss most about Hawaii, I asked Kamisugi via email correspondence this week. "My only regret is that my year-old nephew, Joshua, will grow up without one of his uncles. Aside from that, I can pretty much get a lot of local items like snacks and clothing online from or, or even chili from," Kamisugi wrote back.

"I'm seeing a lot of aloha shirts -- da good kine, not da flashy ones -- all over the place. I saw a Reyn Spooner shirt on sale in San Luis Obispo! And there's a great market for Hawaiian music here. So, honestly, I am not homesick at all."

C'mon, Keith. You sound a little homesick to me.

That's OK. Flush the wanderlust out of your system and then return to the islands, with all of your newly acquired big bucks, business sense and life experience to share.

Then you'll realize the ultimate dream of many an expat: coming back to Hawaii. Joshua will be waiting.

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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