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Why the state of Hawaii is looking to recruit remote workers

Jason Higa, FCH Enterprises CEO & ‘Movers & Shakas’ Campaign Leader joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss why a group of Hawaii leaders are launching a campaign to appeal remote workers to the beautiful state.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Hawaii's economy has taken a big hit as a result of this pandemic. Unemployment in the state soaring to 7.1% there. The state is now working with the private sector to launch a new program to attract more workers to the state, dubbed Movers and Shakas. The program is offering the first 50 applicants a free round trip ticket to Hawaii. Sounds like a pretty good incentive there. Let's bring in Jason Higa. He is the CEO of FCH Enterprises and a campaign leader for Movers and Shakas. Jason, it's great to have you on today.

You know a lot of you are going to hear this and just jump at it and say, I'm all on board if there's a free ticket to Hawaii. What type of workers are you looking to attract here? And how does all of this lead to a bump for the state's economy?

JASON HIGA: Right, Akiko, it-- it's not just a matter of-- of anyone being qualified for this program. We want to be very intentional about the type of person that we do attract. So there is, what we call, a give and get component of this program. We are asking those that will be coming, will be chosen to-- to really give back to the local community. And what we're asking is that they provide three to five hours per week to local nonprofits. And really we're going to match their skill sets with the need of the local nonprofits and really create a means of them to give back to the local community.

But we're also hoping that in that process they're going to learn about our culture, about our community. And really I think at the end of the day, we're hoping that it's not about the ticket. It's about the ability to learn about our culture in a very unique way.

ZACK GUZMAN: And it's a unique way. And it's a unique program here, too. But, Jason, talk to me about what the reception of the program has been on a local level, you know, since there-- I'm sure there's concerns about what could happen with rents or, you know, home prices there on the island. What have you seen in terms of that reaction?

JASON HIGA: Right. There has been an initial reaction, a concern about housing. But we're talking about 50 people. Part of the incentive is that the hotel groups have-- are offering very attractive rates for the cohorts that will be coming over. And we're hopeful that they will take advantage of these-- these very reduced hotel rates. So it's not going to affect the local housing market.

AKIKO FUJITA: Jason, no question, you know those hotels-- anybody that's involved in the tourism business which is really at the center of the Hawaii's-- of Hawaii's economy looking to get any kind of bump at this time. You have now-- I think we're now about a month into flights being resumed to this state. I know you took an-- took an initial hit on tourism, not just from the US but from Asia as well. What kind of pickup have you seen as a result of these flights resuming? And how much-- how much more do you think needs to come?

JASON HIGA: Yes. You know the-- the return of the seven day visitor has been less than what we would have hoped and expected in Hawaii. And really the recovery of the seven day visitor market is going to take, what we estimate to be, four to five years to truly recover to former levels. So this remote worker program is not just a short term endeavor. We're really hoping that this could be a supplement to the seven day visitor.

You know having a six month temporary resident come to our islands, be ingrained in the culture, give back to the community while they're earning, you know, their-- their paycheck from a mainland company. And one of the aspects of this program is really bringing back former residents, what we call Kama'aina.

You know, we have many kids that have-- that are working for-- in Seattle, in the Bay Area, in LA-- for tech companies. And for the first time they have the ability to come home to reunite with their families, continue to work for their mainland employer, but to possibly even raise their families in Hawaii. And that's always been a strong desire for many of our Kama'aina. But unfortunately they have had to leave our islands for the job opportunities that are not available here but are available on other parts of the mainland.

So this is just a unique opportunity that we're hoping could be a-- a long term change for many of our local kids.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah. I assume the interest is going to be there any time there's an opportunity to get a free flight out to Hawaii. It's a lovely place. Keep us posted on what progress you see there. But FCH Enterprises CEO and Movers and Shakas campaign leader, Jason Higa, appreciate you taking the time to chat.

JASON HIGA: Thanks for having me.