Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cold Storage Business Heats Up; as Local Players Clamor for More Space, National Companies Eye City for Expansion

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cold Storage Business Heats Up; as Local Players Clamor for More Space, National Companies Eye City for Expansion

Article excerpt

Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS

Twin forklifts dance around each other in the frigid air, readying pallets of fish, shrimp, pancakes and other delicacies for their final trip.

The shrimp, to pick one, began its journey days ago, in Thailand, and was sojourning in ICS Logistics' Industrial Cold Storage facility in Jacksonville - a huge, literally freezing, cold warehouse on the Westside - before being loaded into equally cold trucks for a trip to distributors and supermarkets.

The huge blast cells in ICS's facility pump out air that's 20 degrees below zero, numbing ears and freezing nose hairs within moments. But that's the warehouse. In the executive suites of many in the cold storage business, the industry is heating up, as local players clamor for more space and national companies eye Jacksonville as a likely site for expansion based on the pending arrival of Asian shipping company Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd.

The Jacksonville Port Authority has been giving tours to a number of national players, among them AJC International, Preferred Freezer and Americold, the largest refrigerated warehouse company in the country.

As the area's businesses ramp up for the pending arrival of MOL, which will open up trade lanes between the First Coast and Asia, much attention has been paid to the effort to lure distribution centers here. At the same time, the refrigerated food industry - including the warehouses that store cold or frozen goods as well as ships and trucks that transport products - is quietly growing.

Earlier this week, Crowley Maritime Corp. announced it had purchased 457 new refrigerated container units, increasing its fleet by about 20 percent. "Our reefer business is very strong," said Rob Grune, a Crowley senior vice president. "We want to be able to grow with the market we're in."

In part, local growth is a side effect of the deal signed with Mitsui, the largest carrier of U.S. meat exports in 2005. At the same time, local businesses like ICS, Caribbean Shipping and Cold Storage and Burris Logistics have also seen their fortunes bolstered by general growth in the trade of refrigerated goods. …

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