Erika Engle

Hawaii mo’ bettah, unless
you’re talking paychecks

The brain drain story has been done to death, but at its core remains salient reality: Mainland jobs pay better, but Hawaii has a very strong gravitational pull.

A survey by the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce of Northern California finds that 16 percent of its members would return to Hawaii, were there good jobs to be had. About 27 percent would wait for retirement.

Roughly 200 of the chamber's 2,000 members responded to the survey, published in the newsletter posted yesterday at Only the top two or three responses to each question are posted, to minimize minutiae.

Slightly more than 50 percent of respondents are originally from Oahu, while 30 percent of HCCNC's members are not from Hawaii at all. The large percentage of nonlocal members is reflective of the large number of people who want to be associated with Hawaii, said Eric Tao, chamber president.

"They just love the Hawaiian culture, they love the music and travel to Hawaii," he said. "Everyone's looking for community," and the Hawaii community on the mainland is based not on ethnicity or politics. It's diverse and inclusive, he said.

About one in five calls received by Chris Cruthers, a senior counselor at Employment Specialists in Honolulu, is from someone on the mainland looking to move to Hawaii.

"They have to come here physically for us to help them ... but they want to relocate," she said. "The reason for it is the 'paradise' concept."

Cruthers asks if they're sure they want to take a 33 percent cut in pay.

"It really is like that," she said.

Cruthers has placed a certified public accountant for $75,000, a project architect for $65,000,and administrative professionals for anywhere from $30,000 to $45,000 a year.

They've all taken significant pay cuts to live in Hawaii, she said. An executive she placed last year had planned his Hawaii move for years. "He had money and investments. He'd been a CEO, but he came here for the living. He knew he was going to have to take a huge cut -- in half," she said. The job he took was to occupy him until his retirement.

There are plenty of people who want to relocate to Hawaii and local people are "generally willing to take the pay cut to move home," said chamber President Tao, originally from Hilo.

Cruthers has good news for some of them.

"There's an increase in employment (locally)," she said. "A lot of employers are in need."

The most active sectors Cruthers sees are construction, architecture and civil engineering. If a candidate is skilled in computer-aided design, "I can place them anywhere," she said.

For those not in those sectors, Tao believes there should be an annual "homecoming" type job fair.

The idea would be to showcase Hawaii's best businesses for workforce recruitment, business partnerships and product or service promotion, he said.

"Everybody in (the state Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism) is saying 'Hawaii's open for business,' so why don't we show them?" said Tao.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:


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