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Surrounded by grapes, tomatoes, asparagus, strawberries, roses and a wide array of other goods traveling to and from Los Angeles, U.S. Congresswoman Janice Hahn and Apollo Freight officials opened a massive new perishable center the size of six homes Nov. 28 adjacent to Los Angeles International Airport.

The state-of-the-art 15,663-square-foot facility (with temperature zones ranging from 45 degrees Fahrenheit to 0 degrees Fahrenheit) is part of a new 37,000-square-foot warehouse facility that boosts Los Angeles' refrigeration capacity to more than 82,000 square feet, a key component in the battle to take market share from Miami, which currently imports 69 percent of perishable goods coming into the United States.

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Apollo Freight opted for a unique ice ribbon 'smashing' ceremony instead of a traditional ribbon cutting to open its state-of-the-art 15,663-square-foot perishable facility near LAX. At the event were Victor Adducie, general manager of Apollo Freight; Ivo Skorin, chief operating officer of Apollo Freight; Libby Williams, managing director with the office of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; U.S. Congresswoman Janice Hahn; and Joseph A. Czyzyk, chairman and chief executive officer of Mercury Air Group, the parent company of Apollo Freight.

“This is all about commerce and about trade, and that means jobs,” Rep. Hahn said in a press release. “The United States currently imports about 30 percent of its fruits and vegetables, and more than 20 percent of our food exports can be considered perishable. We like to be able to have avocados and grapes on our tables, even when they're not in season locally. That is exactly what this facility allows our families to do.”

“From Mexican onions bound for London to California produce like tomatoes and strawberries headed for Hawaii, we handle it all, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Ivo Skorin, Apollo chief operating officer, said in the release.

Apollo's new facility, in conjunction with a similar on-airport refrigeration warehouse operated by its parent company, Mercury Air Group, makes Mercury one of Los Angeles' larger perishable cargo handlers. The new facility, on average, will handle 100 tons of produce daily with an estimated market value of $90 million annually.

Mercury Air Group Chief Executive Officer Joseph Czyzyk was committed to opening the new facility within the City of Los Angeles. “I am bullish on Los Angeles,” he said in the release. “The truth is, we could have opened this facility a few blocks away in Inglewood [CA] or down the street in Hawthorne [CA], areas which are rapidly becoming off-airport hubs for air freight, but we didn't. We kept to Mercury's roots and opened this state-of-the-art facility right here within the city boundaries.”

Perishable products coming to Apollo Freight's new facility are transferred directly from refrigerated trucks into a climate-controlled setting without breaking the cold chain, making it more advantageous for importers to ship directly to Los Angeles instead of shipping goods to Miami and having them sent to the West Coast via refrigerated truck.

The perishable center took just under four months to build and was manufactured by Kol-Temp in Escondido, CA. It includes four individual units to handle specific products at specific temperatures.

“At any one time, we might have mangos at 43 degrees, roses at 34 degrees and blueberries at 37 degrees,” Mr. Skorin said in the release. “Whatever the optimum temperature is, that's what we use to store them.”

As a Transportation Security Administration-certified cargo screening facility, Apollo x-rays and inspects every shipment that comes through its doors in a temperature-controlled working, staging and screening environment, maintaining the cold chain and adhering to the highest food-safety standards.

Founded less than two years ago, Apollo Freight has already become a leader in offering growers, shippers, exporters and importers a cost-effective, safe and efficient way to move perishables to consumers in the United States, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Apollo works closely with such carriers as Cathay Pacific, Korean Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Pacific Air, Lufthansa, Air France-KLM, British Airways, All Nippon Airlines and LAN Cargo.