November, 2011

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2011 "Friend of Chile" Awards Luncheon

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Hundreds Gather to Honor Chile's Special Connections with Pennsylvania and the Business Innovator Who Made it Possible

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

[Philadelphia, PA] Many of the city’s most influential business leaders gathered at the prestigious Union League of Philadelphia for award ceremonies honoring Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Corbett and the world’s largest Chilean grape importer and international business innovator, Peter Kopke, Sr. The Chilean American Chamber of Commerce honored Governor Corbett with their Fourteenth Annual Friend of Chile Award. He represents the generations of Pennsylvanians who secure, ship, transport and enjoy the international fruits and produce that come through the Ports of the Delaware River from Chile. The Friend of Chile Award is a tribute to the Commonwealth’s international diplomacy and its four decades-long relationship with Chile.

Governor Corbett outlined the many ties between his state and the South American agricultural powerhouse. He also spoke fondly and painted vivid recollections of his time spent in Chile, visiting his daughter when she was a student at the University of Santiago. He recounted Pennsylvania’s successful efforts helping to free trapped miners in Chile’s mountains. The governor said that kind of aid and understanding demonstrates the depth of the bonds between us.

“In this room we have citizens of two of the oldest democracies in the Western Hemisphere. We appreciate the fact that free trade markets are made by free people. And we are true friends. The commercial alliance between Chile and Pennsylvania has opened the gates of prosperity for the people in both lands.” Corbett continued, “It is the foundation for peace and it is the bridge to a lasting relationship. I want to make sure that continues and make sure this port continues to grow.”

Concurring with remarks made by Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Stack and the President of the Chilean and American Chamber of Commerce, Robert Palaima, the Governor said, “I am committed to the Port of Philadelphia.” Corbett also noted the historic importance of the Philadelphia Port dating back to the founding of the United States. He said he is asking the federal government to continue the dredging of the Delaware River, to insure its continued strength and viability. Corbett concluded, “I am committed to making this port the best port on the East Coast.”

His Excellency Arturo Fermandois, Chile’s Ambassador to the United States, joined the Chamber in offering congratulations and spoke of the strong relationship between his country and the people of Pennsylvania. He noted the extraordinary efforts of Peter Kopke, Sr. in these diplomatic efforts.

Peter Kopke Sr., the President of William H. Kopke Jr. Incorporated, received the Chamber’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his five decades of work pioneering the Chilean grape business in the United States. Today his company is the largest importer of Chilean grapes worldwide. Kopke’s vision and ingenuity broke the grip of ‘Winter’ making the miracle of year-round fruit a reality for the Greater Philadelphia region and the nation. The effort has also created jobs throughout the Delaware Valley. Leo Holt, President of Holt Logistics and Barbara Hunter of Western Industries discussed Kopke’s profound contributions to the Chilean and American fruit trade, his vision, consummate diplomatic skills and the pivotal position he created for the Ports of the Delaware River.

In receiving the award, Kopke told the three hundred business leaders in attendance, for all of his work and that of his father, he is also extremely pleased with the work of his sons, Peter, Jr. and William. He detailed the innovations they are bringing to the scene. He spoke of Peter’s designing a computer program to handle the huge amount of details generated by millions of boxes of fruit on four continents, through 17 countries, his international legal expertise, along with William’s ability to finesse complex business deals through-out the Kopke spheres of influence “in ways far beyond his years.” Peter, Sr. also mentioned all the various key players in the firm, going back to its earliest days. He explained the political turbulence Chile experienced in the 1970s; the upheaval, uncertainty and danger. He recounted the days of no refrigeration, then no climate control, the days of working with ‘Handsome Heshie’ and the firm’s ‘truckologist’ figuring ways to tame rural roads all over the world. Kopke said, “This team enabled me and our firm to achieve the position we enjoy today. I have great affection for all of those that I have mentioned and for those who started with me in the beginning and are no longer here. In conclusion, I would say my greatest wish – is to do it all over again.”
The hardy applause became a standing ovation.

Ricardo Maldonado, the Executive Director of the Chilean and American Chamber of Commerce said, “It is the trailblazing work of Peter Kopke Sr. coupled with the care of Governor Corbett that creates and continues the strong bonds of friendship between Chile, the Greater Philadelphia region and our state. Chile has never had a more appreciative set of friends, than the ones they have in Pennsylvania.”

The Chilean and American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia is a non-profit, member-based organization created to foster, increase and improve commercial and trade relations between the Republic of Chile and the Greater Philadelphia Region.