Erika Engle

Robert’s needs bus drivers
now, offers signing bonuses

ROBERT'S Hawaii has an unprecedented need for 60 drivers. Right now. The company will offer paid commercial drivers' license training and, in some cases, signing bonuses of up to $3,000 at a job fair from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday in the Ward Centre parking lot across from the Ward Entertainment Complex.

The need is immediate and the company has never done anything like this, said spokeswoman Sam Shenkus.

The increase in visitor arrivals, courtesy of the cruise ship industry, has increased demand, which compounds driver retention problems for companies such as Robert's, she said.

Competition for drivers in the tour and transportation industry is tough and there is normal job attrition, but the companies' No. 1 competitor for drivers is TheBus, she said.

Drivers for Oahu Transit Services Inc. are unionized. "They're making big money. We can't compete with the city bus pay structure," she said. "They're subsidized by taxpayer dollars and we're not. We have to compete in the marketplace."

"Sight-seeing drivers are our A-team and we do have tour driver openings as well," Shenkus said. The company has more than 1,000 vehicles, including school buses that also need drivers.

Information on how much money Robert's pays its drivers was not available yesterday. Benefits include profit-sharing and a 401(k).

Kauai moves business

The $500,000 Kauai Visitors Bureau advertising account has been awarded to Laird Christianson Advertising Inc., after four years with Starr Seigle Communications Inc.

The bureau retained McNeil Wilson Communications Inc. as its public relations firm of record, a contract valued at $175,000. McNeil Wilson has represented the bureau since 1997.

Laird Christianson and McNeil Wilson were among four ad agencies and two public-relations firms selected to make presentations following the bureau's July 9 request for proposals.

"Every four or five years we look at revisiting every contract and do an RFP (request for proposals)," said Sue Kanoho, the bureau's executive director. "Everybody's got different styles and what Laird's offering really matches our needs.

Kanoho also had kind words for Starr Seigle. "For the four years that (Starr Seigle) had our account they did some great branding for us," she said.

Kauai was the first neighbor island that Laird Christianson President Buck Laird visited when he was a Navy man stationed in Hawaii.

"My wife is from Kauai. We were married on Kauai. I've had business experience on Kauai since 1973," he said.

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: eengle@starbulletin.com



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