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UHERO, institute at odds of Maui's astronomy economic impact

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WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) — The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization characterizes the financial impact of astronomy in Maui as "relatively small" at $5.34.

But the university's Institute for Astronomy says the figure is much higher at $41 million.

The UHERO study places Maui ahead of Kauai's $2.61 million, but behind Honolulu's $68.43 million and Hawaii County's $91.48 million, the Maui News ( reported Sunday.

"One of the things that should be notes is ... the (UHERO) report is only on astronomy (study of natural objects and phenomena)," said Mike Maberry, assistant director of the institute. The institute's figure includes facilities operated by the university as well as the Air Force, which studies man-made objects in space rather celestial ones.

The facilities UH operates atop Haleakala include the Mees Solar Observatory, the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System Observatory and NASA's Transportable Laser Ranging System. UH leases Haleakala sites to Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Air Force Space Command and the National Science Foundation.

The Maui Space Surveillance Site leads the island with $26.3 million and has 117 staff members, the institute's report said. The Air Force's Ground-Based Electro-optical Deep Space Surveillance site comes in second with $6.1 million and a staff of 16. Pan-STARRS has $5.55 million in expenditures and 11 staff members.

Haleakala expects another $18 million annually when the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope is completed in 2017. It will employ 35 Maui-based staff members.

"Just the construction alone is huge economic boost to our economy," said Teena Rasmussen, director of Maui County's Office of Economic Development. "It will put Maui at the forefront of the astronomy field."


Information from: The Maui News,

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