Illustration: Chris Philpott
Tony Marzi is the kind of kamaaina that Hawaii’s business and community leaders hope will come home. The 32-year-old grew up on Hawaii Island, graduated in computer science from UH Hilo, founded a coworking space called Hawaii TechWorks, once ran for public office, and now has nearly a decade of professional experience in high tech.
Despite moving back twice to explore career opportunities, however, Marzi settled elsewhere. He recently accepted a job in Washington, D.C., managing a team of 80 within a global aerospace company, purchased a condo and will soon be joined by his girlfriend, a teacher from Honolulu.
“I know there are a lot of good folks who have made it work in Hawaii. But when your talented workforce must compromise between compensation and location, you’re going to lose a lot of good people. And ultimately it’s harmful to the business community,” he says.
Marzi’s journey reflects one of the state’s biggest challenges – brain drain – the departure of talented young adults for better opportunities elsewhere.