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O’Hare perishables center agreement up for Chicago City Council approval

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel presented an agreement with Chicago Perishable Center Inc. to the Chicago City Council on June 5 for the development of a perishables cargo center at O’Hare International Airport. The lease was too be reviewed by a council committee in a meeting June 24 and, if approved, go to the full council for ratification.

A spokesman for the Chicago Department of Aviation told The Produce News that the agreement could be acted upon by July 1. Under the agreement, Chicago Perishable Center Inc. will operate an on-airport center to take delivery of and process time-sensitive perishables such as flowers, food and medicine.

Shlomo Danieli, owner of Blooming of Beloit and one of the partners in CPC, said the center could open by Oct. 31 if necessary permits are given in timely fashion. O’Hare officials, wise to the ways of agency operations, predict the center more likley will open for Valentine’s Day 2014.

The term of the agreement is seven years, with three one-year extensions. The center is expected to grow into an international exchange for perishable goods, eventually bringing to Chicago new nonstop cargo traffic from South America and Europe.

The center would be the first of its kind in Chicago, and could substantially increase the speed, availability and freshness of perishable goods delivered to Chicago and through O’Hare to Asia, Europe and the rest of the world.

“A perishable cargo center at O’Hare represents a tremendous opportunity to bring new commerce, economic activity and jobs to the Chicago region and beyond,” said Emanuel, quoted in a news release. “O’Hare is a global gateway. … The center will position Chicago to grow as a marketplace for a diverse array of goods, such as fresh flowers and food, from around the world.”

CPC is a consortium of three Chicago area firms: Shlomo Danieli, of Blooming of Beloit, a grower and importer; Samuel Wm. Sax, chairman of Financial Relations Inc.; and Jim Richards of Floral Express. It will operate in a 27,000-square-foot existing cargo building at O’Hare with direct airside ramp access for planes. It also has convenient access to interstate highways.

The company will provide all dedicated infrastructure for the development and operation of the perishable cargo center, including 10,000 square feet of cooler space; on-site fumigation to prepare product for sale in accordance with federal customs procedures; and office space to accommodate customs agencies and industry distributors.

The airport authority spent about $650,000 to bring the vacant building up to code.

O’Hare is the sixth-largest international cargo hub in the United States, with approximately 1.5 million tons of imports and exports shipped last year, representing over $100 billion in trade.