Erika Engle

Chambers build business
bridge across the ocean

The Hawaii Chamber of Commerce of Northern California is now the first mainland affiliate of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii.

It's one of those slap-the-forehead, "duh!" steps for the group of ex-pats who founded the way-off-island chapter.

"Our whole mission is to try and bring the Bay Area and Hawaii closer together," said co-founder and President Eric Tao.

Addition of the HCCNC to its ranks "speaks to the fact that Hawaii is becoming more of a force in the international market," said Linda Wheeler, executive director of the Hawaii Chamber. "You can go to the White House and be served Hawaii coffee now. You can go almost anywhere and find Hawaii products."

The larger, statewide chamber provides advocacy and networking for its affiliates and Tao believes the Northern California chapter also can make a reciprocal contribution.

"We're like 'the borg,' right?" he laughed. He compared the group's resources to the ominous "collective" of "Star Trek" fame. If a member needs something, "we send out an e-mail blast" to get help.

HCCNC produces events from tailgate parties to scholarship fund-raisers, such as the Five-Star Aloha gala. The May 15 event honors ex-pat Mary Bitterman and the Takahashi family of San Mateo.

Bitterman, a former Hawaii Public Broadcasting Authority executive, exported the Hawaiian word "imua (to move forward)" to San Francisco where it became the motto of nationally renowned PBS station KQED.

The Takahashi Market proprietors will be honored for offering Hawaii ex-pats local-kine necessities and a gathering place since the late 1950s.

The event's theme is "Navigating Our Future," a nod to the Polynesians and immigrants who came to Hawaii and to current generations that have moved across another expanse of ocean to the mainland for opportunities beyond the shores of home.

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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