KAHULUI - Minnesota-based retailer Target Corp. made an official public appearance on Maui on Wednesday at a career fair on the University of Hawaii Maui College campus.
Store representatives handed out informational pamphlets and spoke about job possibilities, although no job applications were being filled out at the booth. A representative told job seekers and students that Target was looking to hopefully open on Maui in the next couple of years.
In response to an email query, a spokeswoman for Target said she had no "information to share regarding a new Target store on Maui."
But in 2009, a company spokesman told Maui County Council members that Target was considering a store on Maui but didn't have a suitable location at the time.
The company spokesman was testifying against a bill that would limit the size of so-called superstores in the county. The bill was never passed.
Aside from getting hearsay information about where and if Target is coming to Maui, county Department of Planning Deputy Director Michele Chouteau McLean said Thursday that "we don't know of any specific location where Target is being planned."
Target, which has been described as an upscale discount retailer, has four stores in the state, two on Oahu and two on the Big Island.
If the big-box retailer builds on Maui, it would be welcome news to union construction workers and carpenters.
Both Perry Artates of the Operating Engineers and Bill Kamai of the Hawaii Carpenters Union on Maui said they hope Target would hire local union members.
"That way, it's a win-win situation," Artates said. "Utilizing our working people from Maui."
Kamai added: "Something like Target, we welcome them."
Having Target hire local carpenters would definitely be a boost to his union, said Kamai, the senior service representative for the Hawaii Carpenters Union on Maui.
Currently, there are around 250 journeyman carpenters and apprentices on the bench waiting for work, Kamai said. The union on Maui has around 580 active members.
A lot of the carpentry work is still not steady, he said, and carpenters go back and forth between having jobs and being on the bench.
As for the Operating Engineers union, which consists of about 300 heavy equipment operators, Artates said at least 30 percent of its members are out of work.
But it's a figure much better than last year when 70 percent of the members were on the bench, he said.
Artates, the compliance officer with Operating Engineers Industry Stabilization Fund, credits the county and Mayor Alan Arakawa's administration for pushing out a lot of capital improvement projects, which are keeping many of his union members busy.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.