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Three young Nogales brokers embody future of the region's produce industry

NOGALES, AZ -- They are young. Their average age is 25, which may just be the youngest average age for the key people in any brokerage in Nogales. Yet Alvaro Obregon, his brother Enrique Obregon and their friend Tony Mu?oz bring years of experience in various fields to bear in running IPR Solutions LLC, here.

"Working as a team with such a group of young professionals is motivating and will allow IPR to activate all of our adrenaline to make sure that we perform in a timely fashion," said Mr. Mu?oz, 22, who told The Produce News that the youthfulness of the company was one of his main reasons for coming aboard.

"The young generation is coming in and coming on strong, and we are going to make it," he said. "We are going to be up there."

IPR was founded three years ago by Alvaro Obregon, 28, the son of produce industry veteran Francisco Obregon, who is a financial partner in IPR.

"IPR Solutions is now a mature company, run and operated by the young produce generation that reacts to the new industry trends to meet customers' specific requirements, such as special purchasing programs, load consolidation and many other services," said Francisco Obregon, a consultant with Novelle Consulting.

The company focuses on providing "a wide variety of customized services to retail, wholesalers and processors in the fresh produce sector," according to a company press release. "IPR also serves clientele from other local shippers by consolidating orders of commodities not grown by them." IPR provides in- and-out services, quality inspection and transportation services as well.

Alavaro Obregon, who serves as general manager of IPR, worked in sales and marketing outside the produce industry for a time. "But watching my father's career in the produce business, I always knew I was going to end up in produce somehow," he told The Produce News.

"It's in the blood," he added, extending an inclusive gesture to his younger brother. Their great grandfather, grandfather and father were all in farming, he said. "Since we were kids, we went to the fields" in Obregon, Sinaloa, Mexico.

Alvaro Obregon was a market developer for Newell Rubbermade/Home Depot before launching IPR.

"Learning and understanding our customers' needs will allow IPR to direct all our resources to ensuring we provide the customers with what they want: a quality product with the proper size and color delivered in a timely fashion," he said. "This is the only language our customers understand."

Enrique Obregon, 25, was a corporate attorney in Monterrey, Mexico, before coming to Nogales to work in sales and transportation with Border Pro Logistics LLC, a leading freight-forwarding and logistics company and custom house brokerage. "When Alvaro invited me to join him" about a year ago, he said, he decided to do so because "I really enjoyed sales."

He said that he finds his knowledge of Mexican and U.S. Customs law, PACA and other regulations, and contractual law, as well as his experience with logistics and transportation, are all valuable in his new position.

"Our customers deserve accurate information and expect one-stop, daily, prompt and professional services, and that will be accomplished in our company," Enrique Obregon said.

Mr. Mu?oz, the youngest of the three, recently joined IPR as a sales representative. He was previously in sales at MAS Melons & Grapes in Nogales and before that worked as a quality assurance inspector for Sigma Produce and the Produce Exchange.

A written statement from IPR quoted Sara Moog, president of Moog Marketing and a customer of IPR, as saying, "The level of customer service [from IPR] is exemplary of what customer service in any industry should be. It has been a pleasure to work with everyone at IPR, as all are knowledgeable of products and understand the urgency of getting back to customers as soon as possible. I commend IPR's diligence and commitment in doing whatever it takes to get the job done."

Ms. Moog is not alone in giving praise to the young company. Jason Carty, sales representative for The Oppenheimer Group, is quoted as saying, "Working with the guys at IPR has been great. They have a passion for the business and treat every order with a high level of professionalism."

Greg Sabosky, president of Santa Maria Produce Marketing Inc., is quoted as saying, "We have been doing business out of Nogales for the past five to six years. Having the right people on the ground to look at produce for us is essential to our success. Because we buy a lot of melons for processing out of Nogales, our biggest concern is sugar content and good internal quality. IPR has really been instrumental in helping us get repeat orders by selecting fruit that meets our criteria."

As those in the business know, running a produce company can involve long hours, and often there is little time for outside activities. "We pretty much do everything," said Mr. Mu?oz. "We do sales, we go out there ourselves and look at the stuff that we are sending to our customers."

Still, IPR's young team somehow finds some free time, and they find their outside activities a great way to relieve stress.

The Obregon brothers are both musicians. Alvaro plays piano and keyboards. He enjoys various genres but has a particular interest in the classics. Enrique plays and also teaches guitar, writes music (several genres but mainly rock), and has played in bands in high school, junior college and college. One of his guitar students is Mr. Mu?oz, so all three now share a common interest in music.

(For more on the Nogales deal, see the Nov. 27 issue of The Produce News.)