Kit Miyamoto’s effort as global CEO and humanitarian coordinator at engineering and disaster management firm Miyamoto International and president of the nonprofit Miyamoto Global Disaster Relief is not just work— it’s personal. “I don’t see this as a job,” he says. “It’s my passion, there’s no question about it.”
Miyamoto’s firm has left a significant mark in countries across the globe most ravaged by war and conflict, as well as earthquakes and other natural disasters. He looks to take his teams to places where there is a significant need, he says. Sometimes those locations are places no one else wants to go. “Many people don’t show up,” he says. “We definitely know how to work very effectively in extremely challenging conditions.”
With conflicts escalating around the globe, particularly in Ukraine and in the Middle East, along with devastating quakes and other natural disasters in Turkey, Morocco, Libya and elsewhere, 2023 was a busy year for Miyamoto’s Sacramento, Calif.-based firm and nonprofit. The engineer came to America from his native Japan with aspirations of playing professional football. When a knee injury ended that dream, he switched his focus to gaining a degree in civil engineering from California State University, Chico. Miyamoto also earned a doctoral degree in structural engineering from the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
Following the series of earthquakes that flattened cities in the Hatay province of Turkey in February, the company, which already had a presence in the country since 2008, joined forces with Turkish firm Protek-Yapi to form Miyamoto-Protek. The joint venture continues to assess damaged structures and rebuild housing that can be salvaged to get the most people rehoused and communities on track for rapid recovery.
In Afghanistan, Miyamoto highlighted need for humanitarian relief—also assisting international aid groups to understand local traditions and customs to avoid inadvertent bias against women. In Ukraine, he led his firm to repair some 7,000 homes and schools that were damaged in the war with Russia. “We went from zero to 120 people” on the team working there, he says.
Miyamoto emphasizes he is not interested in just coming into a country to conduct damage assessments and then moving on. Miyamoto Global Disaster Relief has had a presence in Haiti for years, he says, and is currently rebuilding schools there. Similar efforts are underway in Puerto Rico.
Miyamoto typically establishes partnerships with locals and trains them in how to build seismically sound structures. At the COP28 global climate change conference in December, he pledged to create an informal coalition to build understanding about the potential of both indigenous practices and technological advances to boost resilience in countries most affected by the climate crisis.
Mark Zweig, chairman and founder of industry consultant Zweig White and an early mentor for Miyamoto, describes him as “absolutely fearless,” willing to go to places that are dangerous and risky.
The company’s aim is to make the world a better place, Zweig says, and Miyamoto takes that mission very seriously. “He loves people. When he goes to a country, the first thing he does is try to mingle with the locals and figure out what the culture is.”
All ENR 2023 Top 25 Newsmakers will be honored at the Award of Excellence Gala on April 11 in New York City.