Leaders find inspiration in Japan to make Miami-Dade a better place to live | Opinion

Taiichi Ohno, creator of the Japanese Toyota Production System, is often credited for coining the term “Genchi Genbutsu.” While some may argue its origin, few disagree on the true meaning of the term: to go and see.

The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce (GMCC) recently completed its Americas Linkage mission to Japan, co-led by the two of us and Oliver G. Gilbert III, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners. Our 50-person delegation included representatives from the Chamber, Miami-Dade County, Economic Development Organizations and our local business sector — each equally eager to go and see what many describe as a nation living in the future.

As Miami-Dade looks to cement itself as an international hub for growth, entrepreneurship and innovation, we traveled to Japan to strengthen our commercial, investment and tourism ties, open new markets for Miami-Dade companies and see firsthand the cutting-edge solutions Japan has employed throughout its transportation, resilience and waste management systems.

From Nov. 27 to Dec. 6, our delegation visited Tokyo, Kyoto and Yokohama to meet with Japanese business leaders, government representatives and investors, heavily advocating for a direct flight from Japan to Miami-Dade. We met with Gov. Yuriko Koike of Tokyo and extended an invitation for her to visit Miami. We were in awe of Japan’s original approach to resident services, finding inspiration for our own community each day. Throughout our trip, we were consistently greeted by the kindness and purpose-driven efficiency common throughout the country.

Japan has long been recognized as one of South Florida’s key trading partners, and it carries significant potential for growth. Japan is Florida’s second-largest bilateral merchandise trading partner in the Asia-Pacific region, and more than 30% of Japanese companies in Florida are based here in Miami-Dade.

Japan is one of the top investors in the United States. Our strategic location and robust financial services sector make Miami-Dade an ideal destination for Japanese investment and travelers , therefore we met with investors and companies interested in expanding their global footprint into South Florida, including Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and SOMPO International (the third-largest global provider of property and casualty insurance/reinsurance in Japan).

Since the turn of the 19th century, Japan’s ports have remained key to its transportation infrastructure. Increased international trade helped fund the infrastructure and services (jetties, lighthouses, connecting railroads) that provided shippers and merchants with the technologies they needed to conduct trade, making them an attractive partner to the West.

As we work to grow and modernize our own port, our delegation visited the Port of Yokohama to sign a partnership Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and learn about the significance of the “Chesapeake Route,” the only route to the Eastern United States from Japan via PortMiami. It became almost instantly clear that the route holds immense potential for trade growth and learning exchange, and we look forward to meeting with leaders of Port of Yokohama when they attend Seatrade Cruise Global taking place in Miami-Dade in April 2024.

Japan has also grappled with issues like lack of housing, rapid population growth in urban areas and increased waste — just like we face in Miami-Dade. During our trip, we visited the Sakura Environmental Center and Suginami Incineration Plant to see the uniquely Japanese approach to waste management. As we move forward on a more sustainable waste management approach, this visit allowed our delegation to better envision a zero-waste future.

Our delegation returned proudly, though jetlagged, to Miami with a new agreement with the Port of Yokohama, transformative lessons from Japan’s solid waste management systems and a promising commitment from Japan Airlines (JAL) to consider a direct flight to Miami by 2025 to unlock increased trade, business and tourism.

But also, as we continue to work together — across the public and private sector to tackle our community’s greatest challenges — we’ve brought back a new perspective to better guide us: Genchi Genbutsu.

Daniella Levine Cava is the mayor of Miami-Dade County. Alfred Sanchez is the president and CEO of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.


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