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Al Harrison, Walter Holm honored posthumously at FPAA convention

by Rand Green | November 07, 2011

TUBAC, AZ -- The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas presented its second annual Pillar of the FPAA Award posthumously to two pioneers of the Nogales produce industry during the closing event of the 43rd annual Nogales Produce Convention & Golf Tournament, held here Nov. 3-5.

Brent Harrison, president of Al Harrison Co. Distributors, accepted a Pillar of the FPAA award in behalf of his grandfather, the company’ founder. Presenting the posthumous award was FPAA Chairman Elect Alejandro Canelos Jr. (Photo by Rand Green)

Recipients of the award, given in recognition of lifetime achievement, were Al Harrison, founder of the Al Harrison Co. Distributors, and Walter Holm, founder of the Walter Holm & Co. and a founding member of the West Mexico Vegetable Distributors Association, which is now known as the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.

Accepting the award in behalf of Mr. Harrison was his grandson, Brent Harrison, currently president of Al Harrison Co. The presentation was made by Alejandro Canelos Jr., founding partner of Melones Internacional in Nogales, an officer in Apache Produce Imports LLC in Nogales, and chairman-elect of FPAA.

Accepting the award in behalf of Mr. Holm was his son, Axel Holm, formerly vice president of Walter Holm & Co. and a renowned Southern Arizona historian. The presentation was made by Jaime Chamberlain, president of J-C Distributing Inc. in Nogales and chairman of FPAA.

The convention kicked off Thursday morning with guided tours of produce warehouses in Nogales, followed by three industry-related educational sessions in the afternoon in the Mission Ballroom at the Tubac Golf Resort & Spa in the historic town of Tubac, about 20 miles north of Nogales.

In the first educational session, Robert Shuler, principal in The Shuler Law Firm PLC in Phoenix and former deputy director of the California Department of Food & Agriculture, who represents FPAA and several other agricultural organizations in the state capital, spoke about “how FPAA can achieve its goals in Arizona. He observed that the attitude in the state government is beginning to shift” in the association’s favor in several areas as lawmakers and regulators gain a better understanding of the industry but emphasized the need to continue to educate them regarding “the values we bring to the state.”

A three-member panel discussed the progress being made in the expansion of the Port of Mariposa in Nogales.

David Higgerson, director of field operations for U.S. Customs & Border Protection, stressed that the expanded facilities will have a positive impact on trade. Noting that “trucks at rest are trucks at risk,” he said that CBP wants “to keep them moving.”

John Halikowski, director of the Arizona Department of Transportation, made a similar point, stating that the goal of the project is “to quickly move goods and people through the port.” He emphasized that it is important to focus on the “economic aspects” of the port facility expansion and said that “the only way” Arizona will be able “to compete and do well is by investing in infrastructure.”

J.B. Manson, chairman of the Greater Nogales Santa Cruz County Port Authority, said that the completed facility will be geared to handle 4,000 trucks a day -- twice the capacity of the current facility -- and will be “the best port of entry on the southern border.”

Keynote speaker for the event was Steve Grinstead, chief executive officer of Pro*Act in Monterey, CA, who discussed “what it takes to be a first-tier supplier in the new age of food safety, traceability and social responsibility.”

Mr. Grinstead said that it is no longer enough “just to be a great company.” Today it is important to be great ‘collaboratively” with one’s partners, both suppliers and customers. Observing that advancing technology made the business less personal for a time, he said that relationships are now regaining importance. Providing customer satisfaction remains key, and in the end “it’s all about people.”

In the final educational session, Jay Thompson, president of Transportation Business Associates, discussed transportation issues facing the produce industry, noting that under the current regulatory environment, truckers will be under increasing scrutiny and shippers and receivers “will be more at risk.” He said that the current shortage of drivers is a problem that will only grow worse over the next year.

Mr. Thompson talked about the practice of truck relays for long-distance trucking, in which one driver hauls a load about one-day’s drive to a relay point, then drops off the trailer which is picked up by another trucker and taken to the next relay point and so on until it reaches its destination. Increasingly popular in dry goods, the practice also has potential benefits for produce, he said, since it “can cut hours out of the delivery time.”

The convention’s opening fiesta was held at the Tubac Resort Thursday evening. The annual golf tournament was held Friday and Saturday at Tubac and the Rio Rico golf course.