UHERO: Astronomy continues to have a significant impact on the Hawaiian economy

Astronomy in Hawaii supports the employment of 1,313 residents and had a total economic impact (production of goods and services) of $221 million on the state in 2019, according to a University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization (UHERO) update published on January 30, 2022. The update revealed that astronomy generated $110 million in direct spending in Hawaii— purchases from local businesses, salaries and wages and expenses of students and visiting researchers. The total economic impact of $221 million, which also takes into account indirect and induced impacts, is nearly as much as agriculture statewide.

“The figures are not surprising as they are based on the UHERO Report 2012but the economic impact is only part of the story,” said Greg Chungeneral manager of the uh Hello Maunakea Stewardship Center. “This kind of impact only happens because people’s lives are actually affected. Astronomy provides educational and employment opportunities for the people of Hawaiisupports hundreds of Hawaii families and is one of the few established economic sectors not related to tourism or the military. And its greatest benefits are on Hawaii Isle.”

The UHERO update revealed that the total economic impact of astronomy on Hawaii Island in 2019 was $102 million (46% of astronomy-related employment statewide) while maintaining 611 jobs (46% of astronomy-related employment statewide of State).

“This is an important insight into the benefits that astronomy brings to our communities, especially through the creation of many high-tech jobs,” said uh Institute of Astronomy Director Doug Simonswho worked in astronomy on Hawaii Island since 1990 including as Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope executive director (2012–21) and director of the Gemini Observatory (2006–11). “It’s a sustainable industry with career paths that our local residents, including Native Hawaiians, have available to them. Astronomical job opportunities include engineers, technicians, administrators, outreach specialists, and many more. Most of these jobs are held by Hawaii residents at time of hire, many of whom were born and raised in Hawaii.”

In the rest of the state, astronomy generated $87 million and supported the employment of 517 people on Oʻahu and $31 million and 176 people in Maui County, according to the UHERO update. Statewide, astronomy activities generated $68 million in labor income and $10 million in state taxes.

The full UHERO report on the economic impact of astronomy is expected to be completed by mid-year and will also address how astronomy is embedded in local communities by Hawaiiunique compared to many high-tech sectors, and the ripple effect of publicly funded research.

Astronomy is only a small part of the total economic impact uh The 10 campus system has over the state. According to a UHERO 2021 report covering fiscal year 2020, HawaiiThe state’s public higher education system has impacted the state’s economy by $3.6 billion and supported more than 22,500 jobs.

UHERO is hosted in uh Mānoa College of Social Sciences.

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