News Articles


August 15, 2007


By TRAVIS KAYA, Staff Writer, Maui News

Sounding more like science fiction than fact, space situational awareness technology may one day give the U.S. military the ability to accurately track more than 10,000 objects known to orbit the Earth, protecting vital communication and surveillance satellites from an enemy attack.

With international military implications, the space age technology is being developed by Trex Enterprises here on Maui, turning the Valley Isle and the Maui Space Surveillance System into a nerve center for some of the most sophisticated imaging and optical technology in the country.

“These are nationally critical programs,” said Trex Enterprises Program Manager Kevin Miyashiro.

First attracted to the islands in the late 1990s after winning a $15 million Air Force contract to oversee the surveillance site atop Haleakala, Trex has grown from an eight-employee operation into one of the biggest tech companies on the island, due in part to the support of the Maui Economic Development Board.

“I view MEDB as a high-tech partner striving for the same goals,” said Trex Program Manager Daron Nishimoto. “They’ve been invaluable to our growth.”

A key was when the Maui Research & Technology Center “incubator” facility offered space to Trex until it established itself. The R&T Center was one of the first facilities constructed in the Maui Research & Technology Park developed by MEDB through a partnership with a consortium of Maui businesses and investors.

In addition to the assist with “incubator” space, which the company has since outgrown, Trex continues to receive support from MEDB in employee recruitment, publicity campaigns and internship programs that have attracted some of the best and brightest workers available.

“It’s a very competitive process to hire top talent,” Nishimoto said. “There was a time when it was hard to find people in Hawaii, but with MEDB’s help we don’t have to convince people that there are technology jobs here on Maui.

”In addition to attracting Mainland talent from some of the nation’s best universities, MEDB also has helped companies like Trex bring engineers from Hawaii who have established careers on the Mainland back to the islands.

“Many of the people we have hired are local,” said Allen Hunter, vice president of Trex Enterprises and member of the MEDB board of directors. “The MEDB has been helpful in helping us identify employees.

”According to Miyashiro, who is a Hawaii native who worked in Los Angeles before moving to Maui three years ago, MEDB provides prospective employees with valuable information about career opportunities on Maui.

“You have somebody on the inside that provides information for everyone on the outside,” he said. “Having somebody like MEDB to provide that insight is good.

”In order to give Hawaii college and graduate-school students opportunities in the tech industry, Trex also hosts interns every summer through the Akamai internship program funded by MEDB and the national Center for Adaptive Optics. Providing a stipend for interns, the program gives students across the nation a chance to get their feet wet in a professional setting without putting a financial burden on Maui businesses.

This year, four of Trex’s five interns are from Hawaii.

“I was really pleased that I could come home and pursue a tech job,” said Jordan Otomo, a Stanford University senior who has interned with Trex for the past three summers. “It’s been really informative, and it’s really shown me what the industry is like.”

Since establishing itself in the islands, Trex also has created four spinoff ventures in Hawaii, each specializing in a specific technological field. In addition to its work on satellite imaging, Trex specializes in sensors for the cell-phone market, missile-tracking systems, and high-speed communication technology.

In the coming years, Trex Enterprises hopes to expand its operations, adding to its 14,000-square-foot research space and 35-member staff. According to Nishimoto, Trex is projected to grow by 10 to 15 percent within the next three years.







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