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Spotlight Series: Robert Palaima of DRS

Friday, January 22nd, 2021


Robert Palaima
President of Delaware River Stevedores and President and Chairman of the Chilean & American Chamber of Commerce

CACC: How did you begin your career in the stevedoring industry? Did you always envision yourself working in this field?

Robert Palaima (R.P.): No, not hardly. My academic background had me pointed toward diplomatic service, but life has a way of intervening in surprising ways. As it turns out, few professions have as transnational an outlook as stevedoring; the employment of longshoremen to handle cargo from around the world. I was rewarded with opportunities to travel to just about every continent, and to develop friendships with the best and the brightest in the maritime industry. I always found it intellectually stimulating to get to know a little something about the exigencies involved in the production and transport of so many different commodities from Chilean fruit and Ivorian cocoa to Brazilian pulp, Indonesian plywood, and steel from the Benelux countries. At the same time, there is something satisfying about the whole down to earth waterfront motif, and having the privilege of working with talented DRS managers and ILA union labor. I always advise younger people to keep an open mind about the career choices before them, and not to get too discouraged if their initial plans do not work out.

CACC: How does DRS support Chilean trade?

R.P.: For decades, Chilean fruit was a mainstay seasonal cargo for us. Although we were always engaged in several different commodities and cargo types in Camden, Philadelphia and Wilmington, there is no denying the seminal role that Chilean fresh fruit played in the history of our Port. With upwards of 60% of Chile’s exports in this field flowing to the US via the Delaware River, it was important to be involved. Carriers and ocean transport modes evolve, and while today DRS is not as physically engaged as we once were, we respect the positive impact this trade has on the overall health of the Port and on employment, so we support all efforts to have our region remain on top. It is also important to realize that trade opportunities with Chile exist beyond fruit per se. Minerals and rare earths from Chile represent important cargo opportunities, as well as more consumer-friendly products such as Chilean olive oil, salmon and, of course, wines.

CACC: What is your favorite part of working within the maritime trade industry?

R.P.: As I said before, I really take great pleasure in feeling so connected to the rest of the world. However, this COVID plagued period in particular has given me a new sense of pride in our industry. Despite risks and challenges, the Port did not miss a day in keeping vital supply chains going, and perhaps the public at large needs to better know that. There is no such thing as a remote vessel discharge, or remote warehousing, or rail or truck loading. People have to physically rise to the occasion and answer the bell. When I think of all the seafarers who remained true to their profession despite dangers and almost unconscionable restrictions on their shore leave and repatriation, I feel we owe them a debt of gratitude. I am proud to be associated with the region’s strong cadre of steamship agents, vocal Pilots, and organizations such as Seamen’s Church Institute, who have advocated on their behalf. When I think about the longshoremen, terminal workers and supervisors who have helped keep food the shelves, goods in the stores, and primary commodities for our factories and plants, I am thankful to their families, and grateful for how the Philadelphia Marine Trade Association and the International Longshoremen’s Association have cooperated to keep our port facilities functioning at a high level these past many months. I am also appreciative of all the behind-the-scenes efforts of the Maritime Exchange, PhilaPort, South Jersey Port Corporation and Diamond State to provide support.

CACC: What makes the CACC a special and valuable organization to you?

R.P.: In and of itself, the promotion of good relations between the Republic of Chile, a strong US ally, and our tristate region is important. Beyond the commercial ties, there are important cultural and political ties which bind two new world nations which share democratic and free market values, however they may be imperfectly implemented in either country from time to time. Similar to the Maritime Exchange in orientation, CACC is one of those rare organizations which bind Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in common purpose. Conversely, it is a vehicle by which Chile can access leadership in three important US states. When I think back to the poisoned grape scare of 1989, CACC played a pivotal role in allaying unfounded fears and helping to stabilize the trade. Speaking of trade, CACC was there to support major free trade agreements in 2004 and 2015. On a human level, I am also gratified by how CACC reacted to help after major earthquakes in Chile in 2010 and 2015. Also, on a very personal level, few public diplomacy events in Philadelphia were more successful than the far-reaching Viva Chile week in 2009. This exposed our region to Chilean arts, music, cuisine, literature, and even Mapuche culture in unprecedented ways. It manifested strong educational and financial ties, and even resulted in Chilean vintners becoming the first from the new world to receive the coveted Thomas Jefferson wine makers award. The person who really made this happen was one of CACC’s Directors, Ben Leavenworth, the highly respected Honorary Consul of Chile in our region. If you indulge me for a minute, what also makes CACC so valuable to me is the chance to work with fruit industry legends like Andy Economou and the tireless Miriam Borja-Fisher, and all of our Board members who contribute so much of their time, brain power, money and goodwill to our cause. I must also say that allowing Christina Lista to grow into such an effective Executive Director of CACC gives me great satisfaction.

CACC: As President and Chairman, what do you hope to see the CACC accomplish in the future?

R.P.: It may be hard to believe, but in 2011 Philadelphia came close to losing Chile’s Consulate. I like to think that the determined action taken by CACC at the time helped to save it. I am very pleased to have recently realized one of my strategic goals. The Ministerio De Relaciones Exteriores had ProChile actually open up a formal office in Philadelphia to help promote trade. This office is headed up by Alexander Philip Grabois, and I look forward to working with him to accomplish our mutual goals. Now with efficacious vaccines being administered, I look forward to a post-pandemic return to more normal times so that we could continue our educational efforts with effective fruit workshops, and with the promotion of Chile’s growing IT industry. I also look forward to the in-person return of two of our most celebrated events – the Taste of Chile Dinner in Wilmington and the Friend of Chile Award Luncheon in Philadelphia. Of course, our advocacy efforts never abate, whether they concern cold chain issues, USDA Marketing Order windows, methyl bromide regulations, or more recently, to protect free trade for one of my favorite fruits – blueberries. It is hard to believe an effort to impair our ability to consume blueberries year-round, but there you have it. Perhaps with an incoming President from Delaware, our region will receive more attention and a sympathetic ear.

Many thanks to Bob for so graciously participating in this week’s Spotlight Series.

Spotlight Series: Ed Fitzgerald of GEODIS

Tuesday, December 8th, 2020


Ed Fitzgerald
Senior Director, Trade Services, GEODIS USA, Inc. 


CACC: How did you begin your career in the fresh fruit industry?

Ed Fitzgerald (E.F.): Within a week of starting at Barthco in June of ‘94, I was baptized in the customs broker business by being assigned to handle “fruit entries.” I was an account rep that filed the entry paperwork for customs and FDA clearances on the banana ships that arrived in port each week. The clock would start as soon as we received the ship manifests since the transit time was less than 5 days. Handling the tropical fruit entries prepared me for the upcoming Chilean Season during the winter and spring months. I never envisioned the sheer volume of Chilean fruit that discharges at the multiple terminals along the Delaware River each season. As a broker, our volume is seen as racks of manila file folders with corresponding import customs entry documents consisting of manifests, bills of lading, invoices, packing lists, and permits that are required for the clearance of the fruit.

CACC: Did you always envision yourself working in this field?

E.F.: No, not at first. During my senior year at La Salle University, I interned at US Customs and BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives).  Before graduation, I had been offered a contract position with US Customs. However, at the time there was a government hiring freeze on full-time employment. A friend of the family mentioned that Barthco dealt with US Customs and was hiring. I had never heard of a customs broker or freight forwarder nor did I know what they did. I was instantly hooked to the fast pace of the business which intertwined transportation, international business, government regulations, and compliance.I was very fortunate to have excellent mentors in George Sibley along with Dennis Colgan, Bill Stevenson, Jack Mallough, Dave Weiss, and Dennis Dougherty at Barthco. They taught me the customs broker business and the intricacies of our customer’s import businesses of fruit, steel, textiles, and forest products. With their support, I was also able to obtain my customs brokerage license.

CACC: How does GEODIS support Chilean trade?

E.F.: For over 40 years, Geodis (Barthco/OHL) has proudly been a longtime partner and service provider for our customers in the Chilean trade. Chilean imports of deciduous fruit have been the principal foundation in the fruit trade industry. The international perishable fruit business has grown to be a year-round business with a full suite of fresh fruit products from Chile and other perishable fruit commodities from around the world. Along with our customers and industry partners, GEODIS has championed and continued to do what is “best for the fruit“–whether that’s finding solutions for logistical challenges or working side by side with government agencies to expedite the flow of cargo. Geodis’ Chilean business vertical has expanded over the years in the United States, and now Geodis has several local offices in Chile which provide freight forwarding and customs brokerage for multiple import and export business sectors including wearing apparel, wine, lumber, paper, and metals.

CACC: What is your favorite part of working within the maritime trade industry and Geodis?

E.F.: There are many things that I love about my career in the maritime trade industry. This is a people and relationship business. The people I work with at Geodis, our customers, industry partners, and government officials are all special relationships that I have had for 25+ years and I hope to continue to have for 25 more years. Besides family and close friends, these relationships are essential as we work long, fast-paced, and at times stressful hours with our colleagues. A few years ago, I had a wonderful experience visiting Chile to meet some of our import customer’s growers and shippers that we have dealt with for countless seasons. I was able to see firsthand the farms and orchards, pack houses, and day-to-day operations  before loading on the Northbound vessels. It’s the people and the relationships developed over time that are important. Secondly, Geodis has provided me the support and opportunity to learn something new every day and to provide solutions to an always-changing business environment. This makes my career very rewarding. I have always said that if you watch the national evening news, there will be something directly affecting our industry in the Delaware Valley or globally—whether it is economical in the price of a barrel of oil; weather-related in tropical or winter storms; or government regulations involving free trade agreements or anti-terrorism and contraband enforcement measures. Every day brings a new experience and learning opportunity which in turn keeps our customers “in the know” as details matter.

CACC: What makes the CACC a special and valuable organization to you?

E.F.: The CACC is a special organization to me as a longtime member and present Board Member. The CACC is a proactive and working chamber that strives to strengthen the Chilean-American relationship between our two countries and the businesses affected on a local basis. The CACC is one of the few chambers in the country that provides our members with a combined multifaceted approach to business, cultural, and government relationships directly with our fellow Chileans.

CACC: What is your favorite Chilean Grape variety?

E.F.: That’s a tricky question! For table grapes, I like them all, but my favorite is  the Crimsons. For wine, Carménère. Both of which pair well with some well-aged cheese… Salud!

Many thanks to Ed for participating in this Spotlight Series!

Spotlight Series: Alexander Grabois of ProChile Philadelphia

Thursday, November 12th, 2020

Alexander Grabois
Trade Representative, ProChile Philadelphia


CACC: Why is this new Philadelphia commercial office important to ProChile?

Alexander Grabois (A.G.): Greater Philadelphia has long been a key market for Chile and an important trade partner; primarily due to the area being the main port of entry for Chilean fruits for the East Coast. However, in recent years, like Philadelphia, Chile has made important strides and efforts to increase the visibility of trade of value-added products and services. This allows for Chile to continue its mission of promoting exports while also highlighting the diversity, quality and innovative nature of our companies, across all sectors.

In the past, ProChile had been covered remotely, from our Washington DC office, for which being physically present in Philadelphia will make a great difference in providing continuity and support to Philadelphia area companies.

CACC: What are some projects or initiatives you are looking forward to working on in Philadelphia?

A.G.: Among a great list of priorities and plans, it is certainly a top priority to continue our work within the fresh fruit industry and maintain Chile´s presence in the market. ProChile is the primary contact for any trade needs, for which I am looking forward to working directly with everybody on these matters and furthering efforts to benefit the bilateral economic relationship of Chile and Greater Philadelphia.

In November 2019, ProChile was fortunate enough to work on and sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the CACC and the City of Philadelphia, which aims to further strengthen the relationship between Chile and Philadelphia, while also focusing on promoting Philadelphia as a destination for Chilean IT providers. It will be very exciting to continue this work and grow the reach of this agreement so that we can expand and diversify efforts to further promote Greater Philadelphia as a key market for Chile and to promote all that Chile has to offer.

As is the case with most agencies and companies around the world, ProChile has needed to innovate and adapt to the new norm as a result of COVID-19. This has led for our institution to transition to virtual events and initiatives. An example of this is the inaugural version of “ChileConnected, Get Closer to the Source”, a fully virtual B2B matchmaking event that runs from October 19-November 20, with sector specific panels and matchmaking opportunities with Chilean producers of healthy food and beverages, technology and innovation, and creative industries.

CACC: What makes the CACC a valuable partner to you in your role at ProChile?

A.G.: The CACC has been an important ally for our organization, particularly due to their proactivity and constant willingness to work with us and for the greater mission of benefitting relationships between Chile and Greater Philadelphia. We are very excited to continue to work closely with the Chamber and its members in furthering the presence of Chile in the region and building upon the existing partnership and collaboration.

CACC: What is one thing you would like the CACC Network to know about Chile?

A.G.: While Chile has gained positive recognition due to our wines and fruits, I would also like to introduce CACC members and the Greater Philadelphia region to the diversity of what Chile can offer to the US market. Among other products, I can highlight important strides made in the production of food and beverage products that incorporate innovation and technologies, which help meet the sophisticated demands of the US consumers. An example of innovation in the food and beverage sector is NotCo, which produces a line of vegetable-based products, while using an algorithm that can replicate recognizable flavors in healthier formats. Chile has also used innovation and technology as a tool to help solve global issues, a key success case being GenoSur, who provides portable and easy to use COVID-19 tests, and Cornershop, an e-commerce app that allows users to purchase products from a group of affiliated stores and have the products delivered to their doorsteps. All three of the aforementioned companies have been success cases in terms of their US market entry and ability to raise capital in the US; and continually work to expand their presence in the United States. We have so much to offer to consumers and buyers and it is a key aspect of my role to promote these innovative products. I am very much looking forward to speaking and discussing more about Chile and its diverse economy.

Sending our thanks and best wishes to Alexander for his move to Philadelphia!

Spotlight Series: Joe Fox of Philaport

Thursday, November 12th, 2020

Joe Fox, Marketing Manager, PhilaPort 


CACC: How did you start in Chilean produce imports? 

Joe Fox (J.F.): I actually saw a help wanted ad in the newspaper. Starting in the Fall of ’91 at Unifrutti (now Tastyfrutti), I oversaw both the East and West Coast ports as an operations supervisor. This involved managing the terminal port of discharge, fumigation, USDA inspections, quality control, distribution warehousing, and trucking distribution. During this time, I worked with a lot of the growers and agronomists in Chile and learned the technical aspects of the produce business. Back then, CSAV Lines was calling the Tioga Marine Terminal, and working with them also taught me about the ocean transport side of fruit imports.

CACC: What did your work at Hamburg Sud teach you about trade with Chile? 

J.F.: When I started there in ’97, the company was still known as Columbus Line. I worked for Victor Federici, Steve George, and John Dolan, who all taught me a lot about the container liner industry. I was there as the business was switching from breakbulk to containers. It was a time of real growth for the West Coast of South America trades. I got to meet many of the importers; people I shared space with on the docks. Working with them on logistics issues, we became close personally and professionally.

CACC: As a PhilaPort Marketing Manager, how do you effect trade between the Port and Chile?

J.F.: My experience from these previous jobs, plus my network of contacts, allow me to support Chile’s trade with Philadelphia. Here in the Marketing Department, we communicate regularly with Chilean growers, US importers, and the ocean carriers. We provide information to everyone in the supply chain, including the freight forwarders, warehouse companies and truckers. We give them market overviews, presentations, statistics, marketing materials, advice, and contacts. We recently spoke with agriculture officials from the Chilean Embassy in Washington, DC about the latest trade developments in Chile and Philadelphia. We maintain our relationships with the growers during PMA and other produce industry events. Over the years I have come to really care about Chile and its people, so it is good to help build bridges between the two cultures.

CACC: How does the CACC support your work, and the mission of PhilaPort?

J.F.: The mission of the Chamber fits well with one of our main goals at the Port:  to grow trade between Chile and Philadelphia. CACC brings all the key players together to network and knowledge share. The Chamber is an important voice of the industry as we fight protectionism and communicate with regulators. It lets us know important trends in the trade. And it holds some wonderful events so everyone can get to know each other. PhilaPort is investing a lot of money in infrastructure, and that will help grow trade with Chile, so this is an exciting time for the Chile – Philadelphia relationship. The Chamber is an essential element of that relationship.

The Delaware River is already dominant for Chilean produce imports.  Going forward, I would also like to work with the Chamber to grow our trade in forest products, seafood, metals, and more.

Thank you to Joe and PhilaPort Marketing for participating in this edition of the CACC Spotlight Series!

Spotlight Series: Terry DePietro of William H. Kopke, Jr. and KDC

Thursday, November 12th, 2020

Terry DePietro
Director of Pier Operations, William H. Kopke, Jr. Inc. and KDC


CACC: How did you start your career in the fresh fruit industry? Did you always envision yourself working in this field?

Terry DePietro (T.D.): I began my career in late November 1982, when Wm. H. Kopke, Jr., Inc. affectionally known as ‘Kopke,’ promoted Paul Wigand to Director of Operations in the Corporate office headquartered in New York. I was one of three people hired to fill Paul’s huge shoes at the Ports of Philadelphia. My sister, who worked for Hillcrest Sales, a Chilean fruit importer, told me about Kopke’s opening. I applied for the position, and 38 years later, the rest is history.

So many memories, I recall a late-night working at Holt Terminal: a beloved food truck arrived, with 15 of us standing in line – I was thinking, “if someone had told me that I would one day be standing in line with a bunch of longshoremen underneath the Walt Whitman Bridge on the Jersey side at 10 p.m. I would have said they were crazy”. I never saw it coming, but I have loved every minute of it.

CACC: How does Kopke support Chilean trade?

T.D.: Up until this past October, Peter Kopke Sr. and Paul Wigand traveled together to Chile every year, meeting with the shippers and growers at the farms and packing houses to support and share valuable trade information. In addition to building strong, successful business relationships between Kopke and numerous Chilean fruit exporters, true friendships were formed over the years. With the need for more warehouse space and a considerable demand for repacking and precooling precious commodities, Kopke decided it was time to build their own warehouse.

The warehouse known as KDC (Kopke Distribution Center) is in Vineland, N.J. KDC’s president, Michael Meyers, worked closely with builders and industry leaders to ensure the Facility met all the needs of the grower’s precious commodities. Michael proudly opened the doors to the new Facility in December 2019. The building is over 165,000 thousand square feet, has 29 loading dock doors, over 6 thousand pallet positions, and four state-of-the-art precoolers, each with the capability to rapidly cool 25 pallets at a time.

CACC: What is your favorite part of working within the maritime trade industry?

T.D.: I love the passion for this business that I see in every person who returns for each new Chilean fruit season that makes this Industry unlike no other. I have always said when someone new comes into the fruit business, they are going to hate to it & leave asap, or they are going to love it and stay forever. The passion that everyone brings to the fruit industry is what makes it so successful. For those who choose to stay in the business, the word ‘passion’ is synonymous with the Chilean fruit industry. You not only remember the words that have been spoken in meetings, awards luncheons and dinners by the many pioneers of our industry, but you can reflect on their “hands on” approach which led the way for others. Observing Peter Kopke Sr. at the piers inspecting the fruit after fumigation in freezing weather vessel after vessel spoke volumes about his dedication to the business. To see Andy Economou at Tioga Marine Terminal on many a late night in the trenches with his team. Tom Holt Sr. for his vision and dedication to the Industry, along with many others, I thank them all for, without them, I would not have had the tremendous opportunities that have been presented to me.

CACC: Who have been the most influential people during your years on the waterfront?

T.D.: Peter Kopke Sr. for his extensive knowledge of the fruit industry.

Paul Wigand for his unwavering loyalty to our company and constant consideration for the little guy. Paul Wigand worked alongside Peter Kopke Sr. from February 1977 until his passing on October 17th, 2020.

Capt. H. Hickman Rowland Jr. president and owner of Wilmington Tug until his untimely death in 2017 for his kindness and generosity to all.

CACC: What makes the CACC a special and valuable organization to you?

T.D.: The CACC is a critical organization for our industry. Having been honored with a position as a Board Member for the CACC in 2019 was incredibly special for me. Having an organization such as the CACC available to help anyone who is interested in doing business between our two countries is a continued commitment to the future of our trade together.

Many thanks to Terry for participating in this week’s Spotlight Series!

Spotlight Series: Stephen J. Galati of Mattioni, Ltd.

Thursday, October 1st, 2020

Stephen J. Galati

Partner, Mattioni, Ltd. 


CACC: How did your experiences lead you to your role as an attorney at the Mattioni Ltd., law firm?  Did you always envision yourself working with the trade industry?

Stephen J. Galati (S.G.): My involvement with the fruit importation business has evolved naturally over time.  At the United States Merchant Marine Academy, I studied the maritime industry and earned a United States Coast Guard license as a Third Mate.  I then attended Tulane Law School where I studied maritime law.  I started my legal career representing importers of fruit and other perishable commodities when their product was damaged or lost during ocean transportation.  This experience with refrigerated transportation allowed me to progress to Chairmanship of the International Refrigerated Transportation Association.

My practice expanded to represent these same importers in damage claims against inland transportation companies and warehouses, and now also includes representing importers in their business needs such as ensuring compliance with FDA and USDA regulations, representing their interests in drafting and enforcing contracts, and in assisting with the presentation and defense of Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) claims.

CACC: How is your work at Mattioni connected to Chile?

S.G.: Our active involvement with representing those owning, transporting and selling perishable commodities to the United States has led to a natural connection with Chile, given its prominence in the trade of fruit into the ports of Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware.

CACC: What is your favorite part of working within the maritime trade industry?

S.G.: I enjoy assisting clients with growing their businesses and smoothing their way to success.  This is especially true with regard to the fruit importation industry where, as a general matter, all work together collegially to support and grow the trade.

CACC: What makes the CACC a special and valuable organization to you?

S.G.: On a personal level, the CACC has introduced me to people I now call my friends.  On a business level the CACC expands my ability to make contacts with those in the industry, as well as giving me access to U.S. and Chilean governmental officials.  I also benefit by taking advantage of the learning opportunities afforded including the annual Fresh Fruit Workshop, and the seminars presented by Chile: A Digital Country (Ch1l3).

Many thanks to Steve for participating in this Spotlight Series

Spotlight Series: Kevin Mack of Tastyfrutti International

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

Kevin Mack
Director of Operations, Tastyfrutti International


CACC: How did your experiences lead you to your role at Tastyfrutti?  Did you always envision yourself involved in trade?

Kevin Mack (KM): I came into the fruit business completely by chance; I was just out of college and had no idea what I wanted to do. At that time, Dole was looking for someone to come to Philadelphia and work in the new Chilean deal they were starting. I applied for the position and got the job. Back then, the first Chilean ship arrived in January and the last ship finished in April. I would work for 4-5 months in Philadelphia and then go to California for the rest of the year, which I continued to do from 1980 to 1983. In California I would start with the growers in Coachella Valley and end with the growers in Fresno. It was a nomad life for sure, but the knowledge and experience from those 3 years were invaluable. In 1984 the Chilean deal was growing, so I decided to start my own expediting company in Philadelphia. I had that business for 2 years, and then in 1986, I joined Unifrutti of America. Andy Economou had just started Unifrutti of America in 1985. He was my boss at Dole, and I knew he was a consummate business man and would build Unifrutti of America into a large strong company. Throughout the 90’s the company grew and I continued to learn all aspects of the fruit business from the farm to the store–each year I went to Chile in the fall to meet the growers and understand the challenges they faced. We continued as Unifrutti of America until 2016, and at that point we became Tastyfrutti International, Inc.

CACC: How is your work at the Tastyfrutti connected to Chile?

KM: Although we import fruit from other countries, Chile is our main supplier. Our main fruit imports from Chile include grapes, stone fruit, pears, apples, and cherries. Over the years we have developed many strong bonds with Chilean growers and many good relationships. It is a beautiful country and every trip to Chile was a pleasure.

CACC: What is your favorite part of working within the maritime trade industry? 

KM: The maritime trade industry has been vital in advancing the Chilean deal in the Philadelphia region. The entire time I have been in the business, the maritime trade industry has promoted and helped move the Chilean deal forward into the success it is today. I enjoy working in the fruit industry and am amazed at the advances in the last 40 years. Information technology, refrigeration, logistics, food safety and new varieties have changed quite a bit since I first started. All of these fields are constantly improving and refining each year, and it is exciting to see new developments all the time.

CACC: What makes the CACC a special and valuable organization to you?

KM: The CACC is extremely valuable to our industry. They have been a leader in promoting the Chilean deal since the very beginning. The various functions the CACC hosts are excellent, but the one I look forward to the most is the Annual Friend of Chile Awards Luncheon.  It is always fun to see old friends and catch up.

Many thanks to Kevin for participating in this week’s Spotlight Series!

Spotlight Series: Kurt Reichert of Western Fumigation

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

Kurt Reichert
Fumigation Director, Western Fumigation


CACC: How did your experiences lead you to your role at Western Fumigation? 

Kurt Reichert (K.R.): I was originally hired over 30 years ago as a Fumigation Service Technician for the New Jersey, New York and Connecticut areas, handling sales and service. We had mostly food service companies back then- spice companies, pasta and baking ingredients, pet food, warehouses- that was all commercial work. This was before the days of cell phones, so I was pretty autonomous, which I liked. I didn’t work all that much with Chilean fruit back then, but I did make it down to Philadelphia on occasion.

Over the years, I worked myself up to the position of Master Technician through our in-house training program and the broad fumigation experience that I picked up along the way. We used to regularly fumigate large structures throughout the country, such as the old Philadelphia Nabisco plant. These were very complex jobs that required comprehensive planning, so I really enjoyed the challenges of these large scale fumigations.

In the fall of 2000, I was promoted to Service Supervisor. This began the phase of my career which really brought me into the Chilean fruit side of Western’s business. It also kicked off my involvement in the various regulatory issues that govern the fumigation industry. This involvement grew as I was promoted to Service Manager in the spring of 2010. It was here that I became more involved in the Chilean fruit sector of Western’s business. Operationally, this was probably my favorite point in my career at Western. I had the most exposure to our customers, particularly our Chilean fruit customers. In January of 2015, I was promoted to Fumigation Director after Mike O’Connor’s retirement.

Each of the early stages of my career helped to prepare me for the next stage. The operational knowledge and the business contacts gained along the way made it possible for me to lead the Fumigation Division in my current role.

CACC: How is your work at Western Fumigation connected to Chile?

K.R.: From the beginning of the Chilean fruit importation to the United States, Western was instrumental in working with the Chilean exporters, importers and the United States Department of Agriculture to get the program started. Through its humble beginnings, as the program grew, the Fumigation Director’s position was the primary contact point between Western and our customers. Fumigation is so fundamentally different than Western’s core pest control operations, that thankfully, early on, Western leadership saw the value of having an autonomous division with its own administrative staff. This allowed our division to concentrate on our Chilean fruit customers with a business plan that was unencumbered by the constraints of Western’s traditional pest control operations. It allows us to focus our customer service efforts on the Chilean trade- not just the importers and terminal operators in the U.S., but also with the growers, exporters and shipping lines which we regularly visit in Chile. Personal relationships are key in the Chilean trade.

CACC: What is your favorite part of working within the maritime trade industry? Also, at Western Fumigation?

K.R.: I really appreciate everything about the maritime trade industry! The relationships that I have made over the years, the number of family businesses involved in the Philly maritime trade, the long hard hours that maritime workers put in that make this trade possible and even the physical machinery necessary to move products to, and through the port. It is all very interesting to me, and I really enjoy seeing the dedication in this field, whether it is from a warehouse worker up to a terminal operator- everybody seems to really enjoy what they do. This is evident by the longevity that we see in the maritime related businesses. People here rarely leave this field. They may work for a different company than they did last year, but they rarely leave the maritime trade. The same is true for Western Fumigation employees. Our employee retention is head and shoulders above the usual retention rates in pest control operations. Some of our techs working for us today, started before, or shortly after I started with Western.

Within Western, I am most proud of the work that I have done, often behind the scenes, to protect and strengthen the Chilean trade. I have long worked on the methyl bromide re-registration front, serving on several committees defending methyl bromide and its availability and use in the U.S.. I have worked on the US Coast Guard Area Maritime Security Committee to help keep the Port of Philadelphia secure. I have worked with regulators in NJ, PA and other states to keep the practice of fumigation available so that the Chilean trade can operate as freely as possible under growing regulatory pressures which our industry faces. In short, doing everything that time allows me to do to in order to keep the Chilean fruit flowing through our port.

CACC: What makes the CACC a special and valuable organization to you?

K.R.: I think what makes the CACC so special is the genuine way that it links Chile and the U.S.. So often trade groups ultimately operate to the benefit of specific parties in the organization, but over the years I have seen firsthand how the Chamber truly benefits both parties.

The events which the CACC hosts each year are always the highlight events of the year. They are well attended, professionally presented, and raise money for a host of initiatives which again, benefit both parties. They are always presented with entertaining guest speakers of a broad spectrum of businesses. They are held to benefit causes in Chile as well as the U.S. The greater Philadelphia area is very supportive of issues in Chile, as was seen during the relief efforts following the devastating earthquake in 2010. Two of my most memorable events involved the visit by Chilean President Bachelet, as well as the visit by rescued miner Mario Sepulveda.

The CACC continues to work to improve and expand business relationships between Chile and the U.S. This expands well beyond the importation of Chilean wines, fish and fruit. Technology has been enjoying the benefit of the strong relationship between our two countries as well. As a leader in South American business and investment, Chile is a strong and stable trade partner to the U.S.

CACC: As you come upon retirement, what is one thing you will take away from your time at Western?

K.R.: In a word, pride. I am happy that I had a small part in the continued success of the Chilean trade in the port. Though I am beyond excited to move on to the next phase of my life, I am beginning to realize the hole that will be left in my life due to leaving Western. But I can leave knowing that I did my best.

I have always told myself that at the end of the day, the only person who needs to be satisfied with my work is me. I can honestly say that for most of my 11,183 days working for Western, I have met that threshold.

We send our thanks and heartfelt wishes for a wonderful retirement to Kurt!

Spotlight Series: Lisa Himber of the Maritime Exchange

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

Lisa Himber

Vice President, Maritime Exchange for the Delaware River and Bay


CACC: How did your experiences lead you to your role at the Maritime Exchange?  Did you always envision yourself involved in trade?


Lisa Himber (LH): Thanks for asking, because this is actually one of my favorite stories.  The short answer is no, neither my education nor my work experience brought me to this industry, at least not by design.  I landed at the Maritime Exchange because I answered a blind ad for a job that turned out to be with Pete DuPont’s presidential campaign (I know, I’m completely dating myself).  It was there that I first met Dennis Rochford. When the campaign office closed, I needed a job.  Dennis had just recently started at the Exchange and needed some help.  So he ultimately offered me a position.  I had no particular interest in the maritime industry and certainly no desire to commute from Wilmington to Philadelphia, but I figured it was only temporary until I could land something closer to my interest and closer to home.  So now we know that “temporary” truly is a relative term.

CACC: How is your work at the Maritime Exchange connected to Chile?

LH: That’s the beautiful thing about working for the Exchange.  We are connected to just about everything having to do with seaport operations in one way or another. It’s what has kept my job so interesting all these years, it has kept me linked to countless members of our port community, and it’s what has kept the Exchange relevant and successful for over 140 years.

With Chile such a key trade partner for our ports, it’s no wonder the Exchange has worked to protect and bolster the important fruit and other cargoes moving between Chile and the tri-state region. We have opposed efforts to restrict the marketing order for Chilean grapes, we have advocated for alternatives to increasing USDA and CBP user fees for agriculture products, and we have championed efforts to improve processes associated with importing and transporting products from Chile. Even our efforts to change wood packing material inspection protocols have benefited our trade with Chile in the form of improved handling of the pallets on which breakbulk fruit from Chile arrives. Currently, with the financial support of ASOEX, the Chilean exporters association, the Exchange administers the Cold Storage Facility Task Force. This group developed best practices in order to improve worker safety and audits adherence to those practices annually.  And since USDA and CBP are in my wheelhouse at the Exchange, most of these initiatives are my responsibility.

CACC: What is your favorite part of working within the maritime trade industry? 

LH: I don’t even have to think about that one.  Without doubt, it’s the people.  The Maritime Exchange is a small shop — we’re only 14 people soaking wet.  Yet 300 companies in the region are members of the Exchange, and between them they employ thousands of people.  I consider them as co-workers too.  Members provide insight and advice that keeps the Exchange, and me, at the top of our game. They come to us to help them solve problems, and there’s no feeling like being able to get them the results they need.

But it’s more than that.  Members are friends as well as colleagues. We gather socially (well, we used to) and truly enjoy each other’s company.  We’ve been through a lot together over the years, celebrating joys and accomplishments and sharing tragedies as well, both professional and personal.  I can’t imagine this unique kind of camaraderie exists in other industries.

CACC: What makes the CACC a special and valuable organization to you?

LH: As you might expect from my answer to the last question, I especially appreciate the opportunities for networking and connection building the Chamber offers.  I also greatly value the Chamber’s education and information-sharing initiatives.  But out of everything, I think it’s the strong ties to the Chilean government and business interests who are so critical to our success that mean the most.  The bonds CACC forges encompass all members, and that in and of itself is important enough to keep me interested in and engaged with the Chamber.

Many thanks to Lisa for participating in this Spotlight Series!

Spotlight Series: Gladys Gordon

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

Senior Executive Assistant, Holt Logistics


CACC: What is your connection to Chile?

Gladys Gordon (GG): First and foremost, I was born and raised in Chile. In 1990, I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Chile. During my third year at the Ministry, I was assigned a foreign mission that involved representing my country in the local Tri-State area via the Consulate of Chile in Philadelphia. When I traveled to the United States for my foreign mission, I became the first person in my immediate family to travel outside of Chile. And while foreign missions often involve temporary assignments, I ended up working at the Consulate of Chile in Philadelphia for over 20 years—at first serving as Consular Officer before eventually becoming the Chancellor of the Consulate. Throughout my time with the Consulate, I worked closely with the local Chilean community, forging lasting relationships that continued beyond my employment with the Ministry. On occasion, I continue to work with the local Chilean community through the Consulate whenever my assistance is requested. Of course, my involvement in and support of the Chilean community extends even further through my personal, unaffiliated efforts.

CACC: How did your experiences lead you to your position at Holt Logistics?

GG: Working at the Consulate of Chile in Philadelphia was incredibly rewarding—both professionally and personally. My work involved helping many Chilean individuals and families through challenging—and periodically dire—circumstances. It also afforded me the opportunity to interact with many extraordinarily accomplished individuals from the worlds of academia, government, politics, art, and business. I will forever cherish my time working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and—more specifically—working at the Consulate of Chile in Philadelphia. Notwithstanding, I remember going through a period of concern and uncertainty regarding my own future, as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Chile deliberated the possibility of permanently closing the Consulate in Philadelphia. After living almost half of my life in the United States in service of my country, I had developed a great affection for the United States. I was also married to an American and had a son that was born in the United States. And while my husband and son both adore Chile, we all wanted to continue living in the United States. Aware that I might be assigned a different foreign mission if I remained employed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I decided that it was the appropriate time to consider retiring from the Ministry while I diligently searched for work in the private sector. Interestingly, all that I had learned and achieved throughout my two decades of dedicated service to Chile and the local Chilean community didn’t seem to attract much interest. While the local business community appreciated my service and accomplishments at the Consulate, it seemed that no one could envision how my skill set would translate to the private sector. Admittedly so, this was quite a scary time for me. I started doubting my skill set, my ability to adapt, and—more importantly—myself. But let this be an important life lesson; all it takes is one person to believe in you. And for me, that one person was Leo Holt.

Last May, I celebrated my fifth year working at Holt Logistics. I primarily work in the Executive Offices at the Corporate Headquarters of Holt Logistics—often lending support to the Marketing Department. I can’t imagine working for a more amazing and conscientious company—which is not only dedicated to the welfare of their employees, but is truly dedicated to the entire community that it serves. Holt Logistics not only facilitates commerce between our local area and Chile—as well as my other parts of the world—but it also promotes and financially supports Chilean cultural events that are considerably important to the local Chilean community.

CACC: What is something you want the Greater Philadelphia Region to know about Chile? 

GG: As the people of the world struggle to navigate, confront, and adapt to this unprecedented challenge to public health, it is hard to see beyond the borders of our confinement. Nevertheless, we still maintain important connections to the rest of the world. And one of the more significant connections—particularly to our region of the country—is the connection we still have with Chile. In our region, a large percentage of the fruit we consumed during the winter and spring continued to flow from Chile—despite the logistical challenges and occasionally supply chain interruptions caused by the pandemic. Advanced IT—critical to the continued function of businesses straining to keep viable—also continued to flow from Chile. While any of us can be excused for not noticing this important connection during this extraordinarily difficult moment in our lives, Chile remains an important and active partner in our region—as well as to the rest of our country. And once we feel safe enough to travel abroad, there is no better place to start than amazing Chile. As an intrepid visitor, you can explore and learn more about Chile through its wine, gastronomy, film festivals, art, and unparalleled landscapes. These landscapes include deserts, forests, mountains, lakes, beaches, volcanoes, ice fields, and glaciers. In Chile, you can truly ski, hike, swim, and sightsee to your heart’s content!

CACC: What makes the CACC a special and valuable organization to you? 

GG: The CACC is one of the most active and vital Chilean Chambers in the United States. The Chamber’s ability and determination to foster and maintain a vigorous trade relationship between the Greater Philadelphia region and Chile has been integral to the steady flow of products and services needed in our area—particularly in this unprecedented time of crisis. The Chamber sponsors and organizes a wide range of events designed to promote the businesses of their members. And while I was working at the Consulate of Chile in Philadelphia, the CACC was always there to support Chile during moments of crisis—such as those caused by natural disasters and, of course, the 2010 crisis involving the trapped miners in Copiapo. The CACC also supports Chilean cultural events that are important to me and—more importantly—to the local Chilean community.

CACC: Where is your favorite place in Chile? Why?

GG: As a young teen, my favorite place to visit was Bahia Inglesa. Although I grew up in Santiago, I spent my summer vacations with my relatives who resided in northern Chile. Bahia Inglesa is located in the north, about 10 kilometers from Caldera in the Atacama region of Chile. It was quite a physical challenge traversing the mostly rocky shoreline—but it was always an adventure. And since I was particularly adventurous in my youth, I was never bothered by the occasional injury caused by the rugged terrain. During this time, my cousins and I would explore Bahia Inglesa, as well as many other interesting and remote places in the surrounding area. I vividly remember the nights in the north. Parts of the north were so remote and dark during the evenings that you couldn’t even see your hand in front of your face! But the sky was utterly spectacular. It felt like you could pluck the stars out of the sky like wildflowers in an endless meadow. But the most awe-inspiring sight in the night sky was the hazy-white band of the Milky Way, which can only be viewed by the naked eye in the total absence of the light pollution. And while I love all the amazing regions of Chile, northern Chile will always produce a heightened sense of nostalgia within me.

Muchas Gracias to Gladys for sharing her inspiring story!