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Astronomy generates over $100M for Hawaiʻi economy, UHERO reports

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A study by the University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization found that astronomy produced $110 million in direct spending in the state in 2019. The $110 million was generated through purchases from local businesses, salaries and wages, and spending by students and visiting researchers.

Hawaiʻi Island holds nearly half of the state’s astronomy-related jobs as there are several telescopes on Maunakea.

Doug Simons, director of the UH Institute for Astronomy, said, "On Hawaiʻi Island, there are well over 100 contract workers that are given business every year. Kind of a spillover, if you will, of these investments."

"So you can think of that multiplying out, as well across the island. They cover everything from hydraulics within the elevator systems on the observatories to road work to mechanical, etcetera," Simons explained.

Astronomy expansion has been stymied on Maunakea. Native Hawaiians consider the mountain sacred and have protested current management and the Thirty Meter Telescope project.

Last week, the Hawaiʻi House of Representatives introduced a bill that would oust UH management on Maunakea and create a new stewardship authority.

Separately, the university Board of Regents approved a new master plan for its land on Maunakea.

The plan limits the number of telescopes on Maunakea to nine, and provides a framework for land-use decisions when it comes to the university’s 11,000 acres on the mountain.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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