Reversing Hawai‘i’s Brain Drain

Dec 30, 2016

Credit Wikipedia Commons

People worry about a brain drain in Hawaii and census numbers suggest it may be real. PBN found eight business leaders bucking that trend by returning to the Islands. PBN editor-in-chief A, Kam Napier has more.

All through 2016 we met them — Hawaii born-and-raised people who had been on the Mainland, or overseas, building very successful careers before moving back to the Islands. We knew something about their decision was noteworthy but as we went to press with our eight profiles, we found out just how notable it can be when Hawaii people move home.

A US Census report released on December 23 found that in 2016, 10,000 more people moved out of Hawaii to other states than moved in from other states. It’s the biggest loss since 2010 and the loss has been accelerating. In 2010, just under a thousand more people left Hawaii for the Mainland than the other way around.

All told, over the past six years, 30,000 more Hawaii residents have moved to other states than have moved here from the Mainland. Overall, Hawaii’s population grew slightly less than 1% this year, due to local births and immigration from other countries.

Our profile subjects include three chefs, an architect, a retail executive, an advertising creative director and two people in the tech startup world. They’ve found leadership positions that suit them, even if not, in every case, with quite the same stature they had in jobs outside of Hawaii. For many of them, the decision to start over here was emotional. They had married another Hawaii person, or wanted to raise their children here. The entrepreneurs among them felt that while it’s harder to make it big here, it’s easier to find a supportive community willing to help them launch their new businesses.