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BIVB's Aikane Award recipients announced
By Speccial To West Hawaii Today
Thursday, December 13, 2007 9:02 AM HST
The Big Island Visitors Bureau recently bestowed Aikane Awards upon three individuals who have made a personal, positive impact on enhancing the past, present and future of the Big Island during its annual luncheon.

This year's recipients include:

- William J. Kimi Jr., also known as "Uncle Billy" -- Kimi is best known as the owner and founder of the family-friendly Uncle Billy's Hilo Bay Hotel on Banyan Drive and Uncle Billy's Kona Bay Hotel on Aliii Drive. But his resume would fill pages: entrepreneur, importer, financier, retailer, wholesaler, developer, accountant and farmer, innkeeper, restaurant owner, art dealer, shopping center owner and more. His 70 years of entrepreneurial creativity, work and vision have provided jobs for hundreds of people in a multitude of businesses, as well as improving the Hilo and Kona communities. He has worked diligently to improve education and health care for the children of Hawaii. At 85, he still works six days a week, wearing his trademark baggy white shorts, aloha shirt, sports shoes and baseball cap.

- Frank Kamahele -- It's no accident that Kona International Airport is the main gateway to Hawaii Island. As former district manager of Hilo International and Kona International airports, Kamahele began his tenure in Kona in 1982, when the island economy was in a severe slump. Kamahele's combination of personality, hard work and perseverance resulted in lengthening the Kona runway by 11,000 feet, and the island's first direct flight -- on United Airlines -- touched down in 1983, paving the way for more direct mainland flights. In 1996, Japan Airlines became the first international carrier to offer continuous service into Kona. Kamahele also played a major role in ensuring Kona's airport retained the island-style ambience that residents and visitors praise as one of the best little airports in the world. Though he retired in 1999, Kamahele continues to stay abreast of developments at the Kona and Hilo airports and air travel in general.

- Carl Hayashi -- Japan Airlines' Kona station manager. Hayashi's long career with JAL began in 1965, and because of his belief and determination, JAL celebrated its 10th anniversary of direct flights between Japan and Kona last year. Hayashi inaugurated direct Tokyo service between three American cities: Seattle in 1981, Atlanta in 1991 and Kona in 1996. By August 2001, more than 10,000 passengers a month were arriving in Kona on the JAL flight, then the Sept. 11, 2001, disaster struck, and it looked like the end of the flight. But Hayashi fought successfully to keep the flight, lobbying the visitor industry, travel wholesalers and Hawaii County for support. Though it was a struggle, slowly passengers returned and profitability rebounded. Hayashi also had the vision to load the planes not just with passengers, but with Big Island products. Now along with 237 passengers a day, the JAL flight also carries 6,000 pounds of abalone, 150,000 pounds of papayas and many other Hawaii Island products to worldwide markets. Hayashi retired in November.

BIVB's Executive Director George Applegate presented the awards at the annual luncheon on Nov. 30 at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. The keynote speaker was John DiScala, aka "Johnny Jet," a Los Angeles-based media personality, visitor industry insider and publisher of Keoki Kahumoku, three-time Grammy Award-winning Hawaiian musician and singer, provided the entertainment.

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