TMT Supporting the Economy

//TMT Supporting the Economy

“Astronomy directly supports about 1,000 jobs in Hawai’i. TMT will employ about 140 people. The decision contains 43 special conditions to ensure that the project lives up to its environmental commitments, that the educational fund will help the underserved members of the community, that TMT will train and hire local workers, and that the native Hawaiian cultural presence at Hale Pōhaku will be enhanced.”

– Board of Land & Natural Resources, 2017 Decision & Order, page iii

TMT provides a number of economic benefits for Hawaii, including:

  • Paying $300,000 annual lease rent, which will increase incrementally to $1 million when it’s operational; 80% goes towards the stewardship of Maunakea and 20% to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
  • Creating 300 local and specialized union construction jobs during 8- to 10-year construction phase and employing 140 staff when operational
  • Expending $50 million annually in observatory operations
  • TMT is committed to hiring locally as much as possible and using local businesses for support services

The astronomy sector in Hawaii generates economic activity through its purchases from local businesses, its payment to its employees, and spending by students and visitors. According to an economic impact study released in 2014 by UHERO, the economic research organization at the University of Hawaii, the astronomy had a total impact of $167.86 million statewide in calendar year 2012. The largest impact was found to be in Hawaii County at $91.48 million. In addition to contributing to output, astronomy activities generated $52.26 million in earnings, $8.15 million in state taxes, and 1,394 jobs statewide.

The History of Modern Astronomy in Hawaii

Modern astronomy in Hawaii got its start as a direct result of the 1960 tsunami, which devastated Hilo. Economically, Hilo was in shambles. Government, business and community leaders had to look for ways to emerge out of it.  Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce Executive Secretary Mits Akiyama, a 442nd WWII veteran, took the lead to seek economic opportunities for Hilo after the devastating tsunami in 1960 and was the driving force with Governor John A. Burns and State and local officials to establish a new industry, astronomy on Mauna Kea. Little did Akiyama and the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce know that they would overachieve and create a thriving high tech industry that would attract partner countries from around the world, help to establish the Institute for Astronomy and establish the University of Hawaii as one of the premier universities in the world to study astronomy.

Economic Impact of Astronomy in Hawaii

$88.09 million:  Astronomy-related annual expenditures in the state
$167.86 million:  the astronomy sector’s total direct and indirect impact on Hawaii’s economy each year
$8.15 million:  state tax revenue generated by astronomy
1,394:  jobs created in the state

Source:  University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization (UHERO), August 2014


Thirty Meter Telescope will supply much needed employment opportunities and possibilities for businesses to assist TMT’s development, operations and maintenance. During the 8- to 10-year construction timeline, TMT will create about 300 local and specialized construction jobs. Once the telescope is completed, TMT will expend about $26 million annually in observatory operations and employ about 140 employees. TMT’s commitment is to fill these positions with as many Hawaii residents as possible.

Dwayne Mukai speaks about the history of Astronomy on Hawaii Island

Jacqui from Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce talks about the history of Astronomy in Hawaii