Governor Jack Markell announced today that he will be leading a trade delegation to Santiago, Chile to sign an agreement to extend a relationship with a key partner of the Port of Wilmington.
"Our main goal is to finalize the agreement and thank our customers for their business and the jobs that business creates," said Markell. "Chile is a key partner for the Port of Wilmington, and that benefits everyone in Delaware. The Port employs 14,900 people and provides a critical link between Delaware companies and their markets. Employers like Fisker Automotive have cited the Port as an important reason for locating here."
While in Chile, the Governor will also meet with members of the business community and senior Chilean officials to raise the profile of Delaware as a gateway to the American market, an investment destination, a center of corporate law and incorporation, and a source of agricultural exports.
The highlight of the trip is anticipated to be the conclusion of the agreement to extend the storage and distribution of Chilean fruit in Delaware through June 30, 2014. Governor Markell and Mr. Francisco Labarca of Pacific Seaways will sign the agreement.
"Extending the lease to store and distribute Chilean fruit through 2014 is significant not only to the Port of Wilmington, but to the entire State of Delaware," said Secretary Alan Levin, Director of the Delaware Economic Development Office and Chair of the Diamond State Port Corporation. "The upcoming trade mission and the continuation of our partnership with Chile signal our commitment to foster and build upon our current relationships and work to attract new businesses to Delaware and the region."
The Port of Wilmington is the nation's leading port for fruit cargo. Wilmington serves as a major East Coast gateway for Chilean fruit, including table grapes, as well as blueberries, plums, nectarines, apricots, peaches, cherries, kiwi, and other deciduous fruit. Because Chile is in the Southern Hemisphere, their harvest complements Delaware's: fresh fruit is imported from December through April, generating more than 650 jobs and approximately $2.6 million in tax revenue for the region.
"We are extremely honored and excited about extending our partnership with our Chilean customers in the presence of Governor Markell and Secretary Levin," said Gene Bailey, executive director of the Diamond State Port Corporation. "Chilean fruit trade has created strong relationships as well as valuable mutual commercial ties between the State of Delaware and the Republic of Chile. We are looking forward to continue developing our trade with Chile in the 2012 Chilean fruit season and beyond," he added.
The announcement took place at the Port, where the Governor toured the largest on-terminal refrigeration facility in North America. The facility was inaugurated this year.
"The Port of Wilmington has become the leading gateway in the U.S. for fruit imports because we collaborate with our customers and tailor our service to match and exceed their expectations. The recent Rapid Cooling installation is a value-added service that was requested by our importers to improve the shelf-life of high-quality fruit and its commercial value in the market place. Capabilities such as Rapid Cooling enhance our Port's competitiveness and attractiveness to Chilean growers and exporters, which means additional business in the future for Wilmington, " explained Tom Keefer, Deputy Executive Director for the Diamond State Port Corporation.