Starkist promises to invest in the territory's future
Jae Chul Kim, owner and chairman of Dongwon Industries which owns StarKist Co., along with its local StarKist Samoa cannery operations, have pledged to invest $500,000 in the Community Bank of Amerika Samoa, which is currently undergoing federal regulatory and local government approval with plans to open for operation in the territory by early next year.
In addition, Mr. Kim, along with Dongwon and StarKist, is investing in the territory’s future generation by providing scholarship programs for all the high schools in American Samoa.
The announcement was first made Friday night during the government sponsored dinner honoring StarKist Samoa’s 50th anniversary and then widely publicized Saturday by Master of Ceremony and former senior manager at StarKist Samoa, Taeaoafua Dr. Meki Solomona, during the official anniversary ceremony at the Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The announcement resulted in a big round of applause from the crowd, which gathered despite the downpour that began on Friday and continued throughout the weekend.
Through an English interpreter, Mr. Kim said, “we value the five decades of dedication the American Samoan people have demonstrated to StarKist. We recognize that StarKist's success would not have been possible without your hard work and commitment.”
Saturday’s “jubilant celebration full of music, song and dance is certainly a fitting tribute for such an outstanding milestone,” he said, adding that both he and StarKist have a “very special relationship with American Samoa and its people, particularly to me. [American] Samoa brings special memories very dear to my heart.”
Mr. Kim recalled how earlier in his career, he worked as a captain for a Korean longliner which operated out of American Samoa in the early 1960s to supply fish for StarKist Samoa. “It was my first exposure to the kindness and resolution of this island’s people. I was the first captain that ever supplied tuna to StarKist Samoa,” he said.
In the past few years, “I had the pleasure of visiting the Starkist Samoa facility. During the meetings and deliberations I was able to connect with a number employees and was continually impressed by the beauty of this island and the American Samoan people’s hospitality,” he added.
“With that special affinity in my mind, I made a commitment for StarKist's continuous success and long prosperity,” said the Dongwon chairman. “While today we celebrate our past, we look ahead to tomorrow, knowing the challenges we will face together. I look forward to assisting StarKist Samoa’s ongoing progress as its facility [seeks] to recapture its globally competitive stance.”
He explained, “Our goal is to make Starkist Samoa the very best cannery in the world so that subsequently, more vessels will be invited to supply the cannery, revitalizing the economy in American Samoa and propelling the Pago Pago port to having the global reputation that it deserves."
Mr. Kim added, “We have proudly invested in Starkist Samoa and will continue to do so. We also support a stronger American Samoa economy that can grow and thrive through meaningful policies at the federal and local level."
He concluded, “I am confident that steps will be made to ensure the company will be able to celebrate at least 50 more years of outstanding operations in the territory.”
The chairman also thanked Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Congressman Faleomavaega Eni for “their consistent support, dedication and leadership.”
Sam Hwi Lee, president and CEO of Pittsburgh-based StarKist Co., said that for 50 years, “American Samoa has been an exceptional place” which has been called “home” by StarKist and ‘Charlie the Tuna’.
He echoed the same sentiments as Kim and offered special recognition to the VIPs seated in the grandstand, which included the governor, Congressman, and Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who was invited by StarKist, as well as members of the StarKist board of directors and the cannery's top management team.
“In my mind, most importantly, thanks goes to each and every Starkist Samoa employee, both current and former,” Mr. Lee said “We have a lot to celebrate today. As America’s favorite tuna, StarKist represents a 65-year tradition of quality, innovation, consumer trust and its characteristic brand icon — ‘Charlie the Tuna’.”
He said StarKist Samoa knows about perseverance and has seen its shares of ups and downs throughout its history. The CEO noted that Starkist is now part of Dongwon Industries and this combination brings both expertise and long term commitment that will help StartKist Samoa continue to thrive for another 50 years.
“StarKist now proudly holds the honor of being the single largest producing tuna cannery in the world. We salute you for this outstanding accomplishment,” he said and added that in celebration of its 50th anniversary in American Samoa, StarKist recently announced a newly branded ‘Made in America' tuna product.
The new red, white and blue [tuna] product, is “proudly prepared and packaged in American Samoa,” he said to cheers from StarKist workers. And to commemorate the brand’s “continued dedication to this island, its economy and its people,” StarKist is also committing $50,000 to the Troy and Theodora Polamalu Foundation.
Towards the end of his remarks, Mr. Lee read aloud the inscription on the plaque which was a gift from the company’s head office honoring the 50th Anniversary of StarKist Samoa.
“Think for all, not one. Thank you to the American Samoan people and congratulations on 50 years of remarkable achievement. As America’s favorite tuna, StarKist's success would not be possible without your hard work and commitment. We honor this momentous occasion, and we celebrate the wonderful people of American Samoa who made it possible.”
The plaque will be placed at the entrance of the Starkist Samoa cannery.
During his remarks, StarKist Samoa general manager Brett Butler, on behalf of the StarKist management team and Dongwon, thanked the current workforce comprising some 2,000 people for their contribution. He provided a brief background on the company and paid tribute to all former Starkist employes, saying, “their wisdom and foresight in laying the rocks, built a mountain that we have today.”
Butler noted, “To be a successful industry on this island it takes partners” from the government — both local and at the federal level — to fish suppliers, can makers, ingredients, freight companies and various other businesses and organizations. He concluded by thanking all their partners for making the last 50 years a success and they look forward to the next 50 years.
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