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O’hare To Open Flower Handling Facility

Very soon, flowers will be able to enter the Midwest directly via Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

The world’s second busiest airport has converted an existing building near its international terminal into a refrigerated perishable cargo center.

Announcing plans last summer for the $2 million facility, Chicago Department of Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino said the airport was taking an underutilized area and programming it “in collaboration with industry experts, who responded to a competitive process, to actually bring flowers into O’Hare to increase their life expectancy, as well as get the product to market faster.”

The experts Andolino referenced are Shlomo Danieli, of Shlomo Danieli, Inc., a grower and importer in Wilmette, Ill., and Jim Richards, of Floral Express, Inc., a wholesaler in Bensonville, Ill.

The duo brought the idea to the Aviation Department five years ago as a way to get Midwestern and Canadian floral professionals (and customers) fresher flowers.

“We figure, a direct flight to Chicago will get flowers to the Midwest about three days faster than if it travels by truck from Miami,” Danieli said.

The basic idea, Danieli said, is that reduced transportation time would improve cold chain management and, thus, the quality of product. Additionally, “three extra days would allow wholesalers to get more precise orders from their customers and would give growers more time to get the product ready. Shortening the time between ordering and receiving reduces the need to keep inventory, which means less dumpage and more money saved.”

In the near future, someone in Detroit will be able to order product from Holland one day and receive it about 36 hours later. “It will arrive in Chicago at about 4 p.m. the next day, be inspected by 7 p.m., on a truck by midnight and in Michigan the next morning,” Danieli said.

Danieli expects the facility to service about 25 percent of the U.S. population.

“It won’t replace Miami by any means,” he said of the airport that currently handles about 85 percent of flowers imported to the U.S. “Miami has, by far, larger distribution. This is about elevating accessibility in the Midwest to help with inventory and quality control.”

The Chicago facility should be up and running at “any time,” he said. “The warehouse is ready. USDA inspectors are ready. We’re in negotiation with the city regarding the lease agreement. Once we get the green light, we can start operating.”

Danieli said he’s surprised a Chicago facility hasn’t come about sooner.

“The concept is so simple,” he said. “The airport, which has the most connecting flights anywhere in the world, is in the middle of the country. I don’t think there are any negatives. It might cost a little more to fly the flowers there, but if you end up dumping less than 10 percent your flowers, you come out ahead. Even the trucking industry can benefit; they can open branches in the Midwest.”


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