Cold Storage is an LAX Hot Ticket

By Art Marroquin Staff Writer, Daily Breeze

While the lion's share of flowers, fruits and vegetables arriving from Mexico and South America are shipped through Miami, Los Angeles International Airport is angling to become the next hub for distributing perishable goods.

A new 15,663-square-foot cold-storage unit was opened Monday in hopes of substantially increasing LAX's ability to store and ship refrigerated goods while also decreasing delivery costs and times to West Coast destinations.

Jose Hernandez works in the new cold storage warehouse at Apollo Freight near LAX. The 16,000-square-foot refrigerator will help increase ability to ship perishable goods through LAX. Photo by Brad Graverson 11-28-11 (Brad Graverson/Staff Photographer)

The unit, located down the street from LAX, is expected to handle about 100 tons of produce daily, with an estimated market value of $90million annually.

Even though Inglewood, Hawthorne and other South Bay cities are quickly becoming air freight hubs, Joseph Czyzyk, CEO of Mercury Air Group, said he was "committed" to opening the new facility in Los Angeles.

The cavernous facility is kept at a chilly zero to 45 degrees, keeping perishable goods in fresh condition until they are ready for distribution. The refrigeration unit takes up nearly half of the new 37,000-square-foot Apollo Freight warehouse, whose parent company is Mercury Group.

"From Mexican onions bound for London to California produce like tomatoes and strawberries headed for Hawaii, we handle it all," said Ivo Skorin, chief operating officer for Apollo Freight.

"At any one time, we might have mangoes at 43 degrees, roses at 34 degrees and blueberries at 37 degrees," Skorin said. "Whatever the optimum temperature,that's what we use to store them."

Victor Adducie and Ivo Skorin, of Apollo Air Freight, Libby Williams, of the L.A. Mayor's Office, Congresswoman Janice Hahn and Joe Czyzyk, from Mercury Air Group are bundled up to smash an ice sculpture at the grand opening of the Apollo Freight refrigerated warehouse. (Brad Graverson, Staff Photographer)

Last week, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry asked for a report examining whether a refrigeration unit should be built at LA/Ontario International Airport. The city of Los Angeles owns the Inland Empire facility, which has lost about one-third of its passenger traffic over the past four years.

Perry said Ontario airport has plenty of room to grow compared to LAX, which has limited space to continue expanding its cold storage capabilities.

"Ontario airport offers us a unique opportunity to further establish ourselves as a hub for commerce for the region, creating more jobs and economic investment in our city," said Perry, who is running for mayor in 2013.