TMT and Mauna Kea


Coalition of Hawaii Island and statewide business organizations met with Governor Ige

STRENGTHENING THE ECONOMY—A coalition of Hawaii Island and statewide business organizations met with Governor David Ige September 28 to discuss further support for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) and the astronomy industry in the state.

The chambers of commerce on Hawai‘i Island, including the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce (KKCC), Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Hawaii, worked collaboratively to draft a letter to the governor that requests safe passage for TMT, including allowing it to begin construction on Mauna Kea.

The letter was hand-delivered by representatives of many of the organizations to Gov. Ige at his Capitol office.

“I think the goal of this letter, besides soliciting action from the governor, is to voice that there are many businesses in the state that support TMT,” states Kirstin Kahaloa, KKCC’s Executive Director.

“Many businesses and chambers have showed their support in different ways, but not as a team. This collaborative effort makes a positive statement that astronomy and TMT are important,” continues Kahaloa. “It also showcases that this is not just a Hawai‘i Island concern, but one affecting the entire state and business community.”

Hawaii Island chambers reached out to other business organizations and chambers statewide to ask for their collaboration. The list of supporters included: the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, Maui Chamber of Commerce, Molokai Chamber of Commerce, Kailua Chamber of Commerce, Hawaii Island Economic Development Board, Hawaii Leeward Planning Conference, Hawaii Island REALTORS® and the Hawaii Island Contractors Association. This supportive effort represents over 2,500 businesses in the state.

The letter encourages the governor to support TMT’s commencement of permitted construction under safe passage. Topics of support included Hawai‘i Island community leadership, support for high-tech industry, economic impact, international business reputation and rule of law.

KKCC Board Chair Dale Suezaki is optimistic with the initiative.

“This coalition representing the business community is hopefully the beginning of bringing a more unified voice to business interests,” said Suezaki. “This collaborative effort is a forum to encourage discussions on how to improve the business climate in Hawai‘I, and at the same time, continue to be good stewards of our natural resources.”


The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce (KKCC) supports the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project on Hawai’i Island.


KKCC has supported TMT over the course of the project and would like to share some resources about TMT.


The Chamber believes Mauna Kea is a place for both culture and science to coexist. TMT will bring economic and educational opportunities to Hawai’i Island, with these opportunities spreading throughout the entire state.


The project operations will require engineers, administration, project management, financial, information technology and service technicians. This will bring more jobs to our community and a much-needed boost to our local economy.

Here are important facts about the TMT Project on Mauna Kea:


  • TMT, since the start of this project, has focused on the protection and preservation of Mauna Kea’s culture and landscape. In the 2000 Mauna Kea Science Reserve Master Plan, the northern plateau in Area E was identified as the area chosen for the next observatory location because of its lack of archeological, cultural or biological impact. Protecting Mauna Kea’s cultural resources is important to TMT.
  • To help preserve and safeguard the most sensitive areas of the summit where cultural and spiritual practices are conducted, a decision was made about 15 years ago to prohibit observatories from being built at these highly visible and sensitive areas at the summit or on pu’u at the summit of Mauna Kea. The selected site of the Thirty Meter Telescope has no archaeological shrines or features, no endangered plants, no endangered bugs and no burials.
  • The land where TMT will be built is designated as conservation land. By Hawai’i state law, one identified use for conservation land is astronomy.       
  • The specific site for TMT was selected because it would involve the least amount of grading versus replacing an existing telescope, which would require extensive grading.
  • The TMT project will have no impact on the aquifer. TMT is being designed as a zero waste discharge facility, with all waste securely transported off the summit. This ensures it will not impact the quality of the island’s drinking water.
  • Over the course of the seven-year process, TMT has engaged the Hawaiian community with support from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Kahu Ku Mauna, a volunteer community-based council. TMT has also provided opportunities for community feedback through public meetings, one-on-one meetings, small- and larger-group presentations, and other forms of listening and providing feedback to the Native Hawaiian groups and local community.
  • TMT will follow a Comprehensive Management Plan to protect and conserve Mauna Kea’s cultural and natural resources, becoming a model of sustainable astronomy. During construction, TMT will have cultural, archaeological and construction monitors on site at all times.
  • TMT created The Hawaii Island New Knowledge (THINK) Fund that has distributed $500,000 to Hawai‘i Island schools and nonprofits for STEM learning projects to date through the Hawaii Community Foundation. This Fund was created in 2014 to better prepare Hawai’i Island students to master STEM and to become the workforce for higher paying science and technology jobs locally.
  • TMT is funded by universities, governments and companies within the science industry. There has never been a profit made by any of the observatories on Mauna Kea.
  • Once TMT is in operation, it will pay $1 million a year. A total of 80% of the lease rent paid by TMT goes to the Office of Mauna Kea Management to mālama (steward) the mountain and the remaining 20% goes to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
  • During the 8-10 year construction timeline, TMT will create about 300 local and specialized construction jobs. Once the telescope is completed, TMT will generate about $26 million annually in observatory operations and employ about 140 employees. TMT is committed to fill these positions with as many Hawaii residents as possible.
  • The TMT Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was approved in 2010 and not challenged following approval. TMT also meets the eight criteria for a Conservation District Use Permit.
  • TMT has followed a seven-year public and agency review process to attain all necessary permits and approvals to proceed with construction of the telescope.
  • The Mauna Kea site was part of a , five-year search campaign by scientists that determined Mauna Kea’s climate/location the most ideal for capturing the sharpest images and producing the best science.

More detailed facts about TMT and Mauna Kea can be found here.