In California’s Bay area,
islanders unite for Hawaii

When Eric Tao and four others started the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce of Northern California five years ago, the Hilo native simply saw it as a way to promote networking and business opportunities among fellow island ex-pats.

"We started as a small little organization," said Tao, 37. "What happened was, it got bigger than we are."

"It," Tao says, is the aloha spirit in California's San Francisco Bay area that is not only alive and well, "it is contagious."

Whether from Hawaii or not, local residents' fondness of the islands has helped turn Tao's little organization into a widespread volunteer effort to promote Hawaii, its products, people and business opportunities throughout the region.

Now, Tao and others are hoping to focus the effort in order to do even more for their home state. And they're asking for a little help.

Tao, the chamber's president, traveled to Honolulu last week to support resolutions in the Hawaii House and Senate urging the state to establish a pilot program to help the California organization. Exactly what that program would involve is being worked out as the nonbinding resolutions move through the Legislature.

Tao is seeking state money to hire at least one full-time staff member and set up an office to coordinate the efforts that, so far, have been done by scattered volunteers.


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