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Construction will begin soon on the Central Japan International Airport, to be completed in 2005. As its name suggests, it will be located roughly in the middle of the Japanese archipelago and serve as one of the country's chief gateways to the skies alongside the New Tokyo International Airport at Narita and the Kansai International Airport. The organization responsible for building and operating the airport is the Central Japan International Airport Co., Ltd., owned in part by the national government, local authorities, and the private sector. Aichi Voice interviewed President Yukihisa Hirano in January 2000, on the eve of the start of construction, to learn how the company will carry out this project of national significance.
Aichi Voice:People living in the Chubu (central Japan) district have been waiting eagerly for a new international airport for quite some time.
Yukihisa Hirano: It's the crystallization of the hard work put in by a great many people. I should point out, though, that the airport will not just be for the region's residents; it'll also benefit people who are visiting Japan from around the world. Airports are now important centers of exchange for both people and goods, and from this viewpoint as well, the project is of great importance.
Aichi Voice: The construction of the Central Japan International Airport is a model project to build infrastructure utilizing private sector resources, isn't it?
Hirano: We are a corporation, pure and simple, founded in accordance with the Commercial Code; the national and local governments are involved simply as shareholders. Of course the business of running an airport is essentially a public service, so we have a responsibility to remain self-reliant well into the future. Our task, therefore, is twofold. We must create a hub airport that is convenient for users and, at the same time, is competitive and profitable.
Aichi Voice: Do you foresee getting mired in technical difficulties, inasmuch as the airport will be built offshore on reclaimed land?
Hirano: Fortunately, the land where we plan to build the airport is quite solid, and the water is relatively shallow, around six meters or so. I don't anticipate any problems with subsiding land, as has plagued the Kansai International Airport.
Aichi Voice: The slogan you've adopted for the company is "open and fair," and indeed you've been providing a steady stream of procurement information on your Website (http://www.cjiac.co.jp/eng/). How has the reaction been thus far?
Hirano: Our Internet site has been accessed by a great number of people. Foreign companies have expressed particularly strong interest in information regarding procurement; and several foreign companies have already been awarded contracts. We anticipate many more foreign companies will be joining the project when construction begins in earnest.
Aichi Voice: You've also been inviting input from the general public through the Internet.
Hirano: The reason is because we believe this will make the airport friendlier to area residents and heighten their sense of participation. We'll continue to seek their views even after the airport opens and make changes where necessary. We plan to expand amusement functions so that people who aren't flying will also be lured to spend their time there. This can boost our revenue, leading to lower landing and airport fees. An economically competitive airport will mean more flights and more passengers. In this way, we hope to create a "virtuous cycle."
Aichi Voice: Your background in the automotive industry is obviously a big plus when it comes to managing a company profitably.
Hirano: We're determined to be competitive; this is a matter of course in the private sector. One thing I recall vividly about building an automotive plant in Britain was the emphasis we placed on environmental countermeasures. The factory was located in a scenic area near a national park, and we took great pains to preserve the natural beauty. We carried out an afforestation project, planting some 300,000 saplings around the plant and conducted ceremonial tree plantings whenever we were visited by a dignitary, commemorated an anniversary, or decorated long-time-service employees. This is a tradition that endures to this day. The area has become so verdant that the plant lies hidden behind a wall of trees now. The important thing to keep in mind when launching a major new project is to win residents over to your side by getting them involved, and not just by appealing for their understanding.
Aichi Voice: The scheduled opening of the airport in March 2005 will coincide with the start of the 2005 World Exposition Aichi, Japan.
Hirano: Some 25 million people from Japan and around the world are expected to visit EXPO 2005 during its six-month run. This represents a tremendous opportunity for us. The airport will be a 30-minute car ride from downtown Nagoya; it will operate 24 hours a day and accommodate not just international flights but domestic routes as well. We can count on a bright future if we can convince the world's airlines and passengers of our advantages that are not available at Narita or Kansai. The goal of completing the airport by the target date will be a challenge, but we're determined to open for business on time.
(Interviewed by Kimihiro Muraoka)