New program aims to entice mainland employees to work remotely in Hawaii

Organizers feel it’s a valid way to diversify Hawaii’s local economy and encourage locals to move back to the islands.
Updated: Dec. 1, 2020 at 11:18 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A group of entrepreneurs is recruiting talented people on the mainland to live and work in Hawaii.

“The idea came about when Hawaii’s economy crashed as a result of COVID,” said Edward White, a data scientist.

White said the pandemic has proven the state’s need to be more self-sufficient and not so reliant on tourism.

He helped launched “Movers and Shakas” – an opportunity for remote workers to bring their jobs to the islands.

“If you can work from anywhere, then that means that Hawaii should be more competitive on the national stage as far as locals trying to get jobs elsewhere,” White said.

White’s hope is that people like Justin Bishay will be able to work in the islands.

Bishay is pursuing a master’s degree in computer science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The Haleiwa native wants to be a video game developer but is only looking at job opportunities on the mainland.

“There aren’t any big game companies out here,” said Bishay. “It could be a good opportunity for people like me to stay home and still get one of those jobs from the mainland. Because if it were up to me, I would stay. I love it here.”

The application process is competitive and volunteer work is mandatory.

“Nobody likes people moving here, but everybody seems to accept people who come here and show willingness to put in the work and make an effort in the community so that’s what we’re asking people to do,” said White.

White said more than 800 people have applied so far. Only 50 will be chosen and they will receive a free round-trip ticket to Oahu.

“We’ll set them up with the flight, we’ll set them up with hotel discounts so they don’t displace anybody in the rental market while they’re here,” he said.

However, a feisty debate is unfolding on social media. Since the program is for people who don’t currently live in Hawaii, some say it should instead focus on promoting people already here.

“We really want to put into former locals minds that you can come back, this is an opportunity to come back and help us build up better than where we were before and less reliant on tourism than we were before,” said White.

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