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Friday, June 23, 2006
These aren't just stars, but good people
Pacific Business News (Honolulu)

      A widely shared concern among businesspeople in Hawaii is that there are not enough good-paying or challenging jobs here to entice young people to return home after college or other Mainland experiences.
The so-called "brain drain" is real. The most recent statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show that between 2000 and 2004, 8,000 more people left Hawaii for the Mainland than came here.
While the angst is genuine, it's worth taking a moment to note that a lot of very talented younger businesspeople are still in Hawaii and doing some rather amazing things in the course of their work and involvement in the community.
That was underscored last night at the eighth Forty Under 40 event sponsored by Pacific Business News. The theater at the Hawaii Convention Center was packed with business associates, friends and family who were on hand to celebrate the achievements of the lei-decked Class of 2006.
What makes Forty Under 40 especially exciting is the range and depth of the business experiences and community contributions among the winners. Some of them work for large companies, others are in sales and many represent small business, often ones they started from scratch.
The recipient of the Young Business Leader of the Year, Stan Masamitsu, president of Tony Group, had a special story to tell. Returning to Hawaii after college and work on the Mainland, Masamitsu became president of the family business in 1996.
That was a time when the state was in dire economic straits and the conventional wisdom was to hunker down and ride it out. Masamitsu restructured the company, holding on to the employee and customer values of his father, Tony, and built the state's first "autoplex" in then relatively rural Waipio.
Masamitsu's bold approach succeeded and in 2004, the Tony Group sold more than $104 million in new cars.
Winner of the Bank of Hawaii Community Leader award was Karey Anne Oura, a financial adviser for Hawaii Investment Securities on Maui. Inspired by the care a relative battling cancer received at Maui Memorial Medical Center, Oura three years ago organized a golf tournament benefiting the oncology department at the hospital.
The Willie K Charity Golf Tournament since has raised more than $75,000 and has evolved into one of the "must play" tournaments on Maui.
There are many standouts among the 40:

  • Two winners are married to each other. Evan and Kari Leong, who created the "bubble tea" buzz with their Bubble Tea Supply, since have moved on to Greater Good Radio, which spotlights entrepreneurs. Robert Iopa of WCIT Architecture last year was a Forty Under 40 recipient and this year nominated his wife, Rachelle, owner of Kaimuki Care.
  • This is a group of flexible people ready for new opportunities. Marcus Boland was tagging and releasing moi at the Oceanic Institute; he now is a financial planner for Northwestern Financial Group. Deborah Sharkey went from public relations to owning a maternity-wear store and then on to starting her own PR agency.
  • And these are problem solvers: Kalbert Young is credited with restructuring Maui County's finances. Scott Fleming arrived at an established architectural firm in Hilo and guided the company through the retirement of its principals and a merger with a big national company.

A special section in today's PBN profiles the 40 honorees. As you read it, you will feel the pride in the range of accomplishments among our younger business leaders.
Better yet, send the section to Hawaii expatriates on the Mainland. It will help remind them that there still may be no place like home for them to fulfill their personal and professional potential.

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