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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 15, 2004

Hawaiian tech center launched

By Eloise Aguiar and Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writers

WAIMANALO — By the end of the year, as many as a dozen residents will have new high-tech jobs, thanks to a program that helps create and sustain tech jobs in Native Hawaiian communities.

At a glance

What: Grand opening of Hawaiian Homestead Technology Inc. and the Waimanalo Technology Center

When: 1:30-3 p.m.


Where: Ka Ho'oilina na Kuhio, 41-253 Ilauhole St., Waimanalo

Keynote speaker: U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye

Information: 521-5011

On the Web: http://hhtech.net

Hawaiian Homestead Technology Inc., a document digitization company, will celebrate the grand opening of its second location tomorrow in the new Waimanalo Technology Center, in a complex that includes the Kamehameha Schools preschool, Queen Lili'uokalani Children's Center and the Hawaiian Homestead community center. Sen. Dan Inouye will be the keynote speaker.

The company's first center opened in the Anahola Hawaiian Homestead community on Kaua'i, and a third is planned for Papakolea, near Punchbowl.

Hawaiian Homestead is wholly owned by the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, and invests all profits back into community-based initiatives. Its new technology center, at Ka Ho'oilina na Kuhio on Ilauhole Street, is a public-private partnership of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, The Waimanalo Hawaiian Homes Association and Hawaiian Homestead Technology.

"We're changing lives," said CEO Olin Kealoha Lagon, who was born on the Waimanalo homestead and grew up in Kalihi. "We're giving people skills that allow them to take advantage of the talents already inside of them. It's been an amazing journey to watch the progress from someone who didn't know how to use a computer to — after training — using fairly complex (programs)."

The initiative is part of a nationwide effort involving 10 native groups: seven American Indian tribes, two Alaskan native villages and Hawaiian Homestead Technology, Lagon said. The groups zeroed in on digitized services as a way to create jobs for the underemployed in their homelands, he said.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye initiated a pilot project that essentially was a contract for services. The native groups won the contract, but had to train people to do the work, Lagon said. Money for training was obtained through grants.

"The mission is to create living-wage jobs, and that's a first priority," Lagon said. "So it's about how can we create these jobs that can self-sustain and pay decent wages and employ people in their neighborhood."

Employees will earn a living wage, and as business improves, so will their pay, said Lagon. He declined to say how much his employees make, but noted that it's above minimum wage and includes fully paid medical, dental and wellness coverage as well as a retirement fund.

The first project for the Waimanalo center will be to convert maps and charts into an electronic format known as computer-aided design, or CAD.

Paul Richards, who will manage the center during startup, said he expects a lot of people will be interested in applying for the positions offered. The training, proximity to home and potential for better-paying work all are attractive, he said. "It will be an opportunity that some may use as a stepping stone to other opportunities."

Lahon said the community economic development projects typically involve multiple organizations. In Anahola, 20 groups pitched in to get the center off the ground, including Bank of Hawai'i, American Savings Bank, First Hawaiian Bank, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Alu Like and Kauai Community College, at a cost of about $250,000. The Waimanalo startup is expected to cost less, Lagon said.

Hawaiian Homestead Technology, with the help of the Anahola homestead association, hired 12 people and sent them to an intensive training course developed for them at Kaua'i Community College. In the 18 months since, employees have digitized manuals for fighter jets, engine maintenance and helicopters, he said.

The Waimanalo Hawaiian Homes Association will begin outreach into the community next month to recruit workers, who will undergo six months of rigorous computer training with pay before employment.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266. Reach Catherine E. Toth at 535-8103 or ctoth@honoluluadvertiser.com.