From Hawaii Tribune Herald via U Hawaii: “Astronomy’s impact: Sector pumps $91.48 million into Big Isle economy in 2012”

U Hawaii

University of Hawaii

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December 28, 2014
COLIN M. STEWART

Hawaii Island raked in $91.48 million in 2012 thanks to direct and indirect impacts of the astronomy sector, according to a recent study by the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization.

Astronomy projects throughout the state generated benefits to local economies on the Big Island, Maui, Kauai and Honolulu totaling nearly $168 million, reads the UHERO report, which the organization released online this month.

“The astronomy sector in Hawaii generates economic activity through its purchases from local businesses, its payment to its employees and spending by students and visitors,” the report reads.

Local astronomy related expenditures on the Big Isle totaled $58.43 million, with $25.8 million spent in Honolulu, $1.28 million on Kauai and $2.58 million on Maui. Those expenditures gave rise to $52.26 million in earnings, $8.15 million in state taxes, and 1,394 jobs statewide.

Hawaii County’s astronomy expenditures created $27.98 million in earnings, $4 million in state taxes, and a total of 806 jobs.

“Nearly 70 percent of local spending occurred in Hawaii County,” the report says. “The $58.43 million of expenditures attributed to astronomy activities in Hawaii County alone generated $91.48 million in local business sales.”

The impacts of astronomy on Hawaii Island and the rest of the state are many, said Dr. Roy Gal, spokesman for the University of Hawaii-Manoa Institute for Astronomy.

“A lot of people don’t realize, it’s not just astronomers on the island spending money,” he said. “You’ve got telescope technicians and engineers and staff and all those folks living on Hawaii Island. And they tend to be technically proficient, so they’re earning above-average pay and spending it here, and their kids are going to school here. They also tend to do a lot of volunteer work, so its not just an economic impact but a societal impact as well.”

The report also noted astronomy is big business for Hawaii.

In 2012, the output from Hawaii’s astronomy industry was roughly equal to half of the output estimated for agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting; a third the size of the output from the arts, entertainment and recreation sector; and nearly a fourth of the output generated by either the educational services or the management of companies and enterprises sectors.

Sandra Dawson, spokeswoman for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), which is set to begin construction atop Mauna Kea in the spring, said expenditures on astronomy are set to increase dramatically for Hawaii Island.

TMT
TMT Schematic
TMT

“Construction alone for TMT is going to be over a billion dollars,” she said. “Construction of observatories has been a major boon to the local economy, as well as repairs. They’re always putting in new instruments … and it just makes economic sense to always try to hire local people.”

As TMT has worked its way through the approvals process, the organization has made a number of commitments to the Big Isle community, including efforts with other observatories to build a Hawaii Island workforce pipeline, to help support training for engineering, science and other jobs in the high-tech sector, Dawson said.

“Construction and repair is just one aspect (of expenditures),” she said. “The most interesting part, in my view, is the longterm jobs and money that come into the community. We’re looking at generating very good, long lasting, high paying jobs with benefits.”

Internships, scholarships and other programs help to not only support the local community, but support astronomy by building a well-trained, local workforce of the future, she said.

See the full article here.

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