Better Together: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage, Broadening the Horizon

As we enter fall 2021, it’s time to celebrate “National Hispanic Heritage Month,” which kicks off September 15 and runs through October 15. It’s a great way to reflect upon and honor the contributions and importance of Hispanics and Latinos to the U.S., as well as the achievements of those American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

I’m particularly pleased that this year’s chosen theme is “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.” It seems fitting given what our entire global community has endured the past year and a half with the pandemic. Victor Anthony Zertuche, Attorney-Advisor at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, submitted that winning theme to the National Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers (NCHPM).

Speaking from the heart, “the past year has been one unlike any in recent memory,” Zertuche emphasized. “For so many of us our lives have changed; we’ve celebrated life’s milestones at home or spent holidays alone. But despite how our world has changed, we’ve kept our eyes on the horizon – we’ve held onto our hope.”

Certainly, while negativity abounds in society, this year’s theme offers all of us a powerful, uplifting message. Not only does it encourage us to celebrate our heritage, but it also shows how great our tomorrow can be if we simply hold onto our resilience and hope.

Case in point? The Hispanic Heritage observance began in 1968, another challenging time in our nation’s history with the Vietnam War in full swing, racial strife on the rise and violent protests on college campuses. But Hispanic Heritage Week was a positive focus. It began as a weekly celebration under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan to cover a 30-day period; it was enacted into law on August 17, 1988.

Personally, I view Hispanic Heritage Month as a great way of honoring cherished ancestors and building on their legacy. Our own company, Prime Group is a minority-based Hispanic enterprise founded 20 years ago in Quito, Ecuador. But from the outset, the fledgling company’s vision was to grow and prosper – becoming a global leader in our field of expertise.

Thanks to the solid partnerships we’ve established and maintained over the years with the world’s top air cargo carriers including Emirates SkyCargo, Atlas Air, and others, we’ve done just that. We also moved our headquarters to Miami, and over the years, have continued to strengthen and expand our international portfolio of services and products.

So, while we’re now considered the top “go to” provider of air cargo logistics and transport for the flower industry in both Ecuador and Colombia, we’ve also widened our business horizon by handling shipping and transportation for all types of sensitive perishables – from seafood to medications, from meat to fresh produce. In addition, Prime Logistics’ shipments are increasingly headed for more distant destinations across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

I think the overall message is that people of diverse cultures and backgrounds have much to contribute and are also “stronger together.” That message definitely reflects our corporate philosophy and is a key element of our dealings with our employees, our partners, and our customers.

So, if you are Hispanic, let me thank you for your contributions to our country, our world – and our company, of course! For those of other cultures or ethnic backgrounds, thanks too for all you do. Together, we are stronger, better, and can create greater “shared” opportunities for future happiness and success.

Prime Group’s Promising Position on the Global Map

When the Prime Group relocated in 2019 to an all-new headquarters complex, it was a bold step forward that served as the capstone of a well planned launch into a new era for the company.

Little did we know, we were also entering an all-new era for the logistics industry – as the global economy was about to be slammed by the coronavirus pandemic.

In this business timing is everything – and it turns out, this move was right on time. We didn’t know it then, but the staged lead up to our corporate realignment effectively put us in a most fortuitous position to better endure the coming crisis.

The long-awaited relocation within the city of Doral, Fla., was just one component of the overall strategic plan to energize our organization from top to bottom. We focused on streamlining internal systems, recruiting top qualified talent, and launching multiple new management and marketing initiatives. In the process, we were bolstering the very resilience and capacity that would permit us to withstand the enormous pressures that we along with the entire logistics industry were about to bear.

So today we look back at the past three years in our new home, and while the world has shifted and the industry has persisted, we are in a much more promising place on the world map than ever before in our 20-year history.

Prime Group has truly emerged as a  global leader with diverse services and products – and our corporate base of operations says just that. At the same time it signals that we are right-placed for continued growth and expansion of our worldwide brand.

As we enter what appears to be an all-new and very serious phase of the pandemic, Prime Group’s ability to survive and thrive goes well beyond the strength of bricks and mortar. It goes to the core of our values, integrity, and commitment to remain strong for our customers, employees, and the industry overall.

Please stay safe.

~ Roger Paredes – CEO

A Message From Our CEO: Honoring Our Mothers All Across the Planet

As Mother’s Day approaches in many countries worldwide, I’d like to wish all the mothers out there a happy day, as well as a heartfelt “thank you” for all that you do, day in and day out. You love us, nurture us, support, and counsel us through good times and bad – and are to a great extent, responsible for the people we ultimately become as adults.

Your influence in our lives is priceless. Or, as Abraham Lincoln so eloquently put it: “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother.”

Each year, thankful daughters, sons, and spouses express their love and appreciation to their moms or spouses with fresh flower deliveries of roses and other popular flowers. In fact, last year U.S. consumers alone spent $2.6 billion on Mother’s Day flowers.

As a side note, numbers like that are of particular importance to Prime Planet’s parent company, the Prime Group. After all, it was in the field of fresh flowers more than 20 years ago that the groundwork was laid in our expert handing of fresh and natural products – and production of our own line of all-natural green plantain Tostones starting in 2016!

A Look Back in History

Since we’re talking history, let’s take a look at how Mothers Day began. Celebrated in more than 50 countries worldwide, in the U.S., the holiday originated from the tireless efforts of Anna Jarvis, who in 1908 organized the observance to honor her late mother. It then became an official holiday in 1914.

But throughout history, many civilizations and countries have honored the concept of motherhood. The ancient Greeks and Romans created festivals to honor the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, for example.

Many nations celebrate Mother’s Day on or around the second Sunday in May, but the timing can vary globally. For example, in Russia, it is celebrated on the last Sunday in November, while in Thailand, Mother’s Day is meant to promote the royal family, so it falls on August 12 – the birthday of Queen Sirikit, the Queen Mother of Thailand. Customs too vary.

In Mexico, Mother’s Day is celebrated with church masses and colorful parties and parades; while in Japan, where carnations reign on Mother’s Day, children there also draw pictures of their mothers as gifts or to display at a local art show.

Wherever and whatever the celebration, Mother’s Day is a great time to show our mothers or spouses just how important they are and how much we love and thank them. So, let me take this opportunity to say, “Happy Mother’s Day to moms everywhere!”

And of course to my own! Happy Mother’s Day, mom!

CEO Headshot

Roger Paredes – CEO

Hope Continues to Bloom

With springtime comes flowers and Easter, typically one of the largest floral holidays on the calendar – which means, this is one of the busiest times of year for the Prime Group of companies.

Traditionally, Easter Sunday and spring weddings make this one of the highest demand periods for growers, florists, flower importers, and shippers, and of course logistics companies such as Miami-based Prime Logistics, Prime Fresh Handling, and PrimeAir.

Last year, coronavirus shut down churches and restaurants – two major consumers of flowers for Easter services and brunches. Shelter-in-place orders meant fewer families could host Easter dinners at home. Spring weddings also were postponed, all severely impacting growers across the world.

But this year, hope is in the air – in the form of the new life-saving vaccines developed to help control the spread of virus that has plagued us for so long. Company names like Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna now play large in the world of pharmaceutical logistics. These names have also become part of our everyday conversation, signaling an awakening from the darkest period of the pandemic and providing overwhelming sense of relief, re-emergence, and renewal.

Aren’t these the very themes of Spring itself? The season associated symbolically with dramatic changes such as rebirth, resurrection, and waking from sleep.

Turning the Corner

What a difference a year makes – in stark contrast with April 2020, when the pandemic was in full swing, international trade had altogether halted, and the entire global economy was collapsing before our eyes. Like most business in the world economy, needless to say, the cut-flower industry was very severely impacted.

Thankfully though, we’ve turned the corner, as traditional importers who sell to wholesalers who sell to retailers, supermarkets, big box retailers, online distributors, as well as to traders at the world’s largest trading site in Amsterdam – are all now enjoying the resurrection of the industry.

Of course, this also includes a resurgence of businesses at the root of the flower industry: the farms, in-country forwarders, and shippers serving the verdant regions of Colombia and Ecuador. Great news for those local economies.

Rosier Outlook

Today, global sales related to the spring-time floral business are now booming because of the weddings and other events that had been rescheduled after long delays. This upward trend is expected to continue, reaching the same economic levels as compared to late 2019.

Even rosier is the outlook for the worldwide market for flowers and ornamental plants over the next five years. It is expected to grow roughly 6.3 percent, reaching $57.4 billion USD in 2024, up from $42.4 billion USD in 2019.

While the global floral market is faring better than initially anticipated, the economy will no doubt continue to be impacted by the consequences of the pandemic. Nonetheless, consumers are thankful they are getting back to being able to brightening the day of their loved ones with flowers this spring.

“Let Hope Bloom”

In the midst of the crisis last year, the Dutch Flower Council created a social media campaign called, “Let Hope Bloom.” This uplifting message reminded consumers of the importance of flowers in their lives and in fact did lift spirits – and sales!

But for me, it also reflected the resilience of an industry that has endured unexpected turns in the economy, the environment, and a multitude of other unpredictable forces over the years.

I am confident hope will continue to bloom this year, and that the floral industry will be stronger than it ever has been as the world continues to emerge from this crisis, and well into the future.

Happy Spring – and please stay safe.

~ Roger Paredes – CEO

Prime Group Aligns with Big Names in the Business

Many are right here among our ranks

Smart and innovative firms often surround themselves with other smart and innovative players. The Prime Group has been painstakingly diligent over its 20-year history to align itself with the most prominent air-cargo carriers in the business along with highly reputable vendors, distributors, and global trade organizations.

The caliber of external relationships is a strong indicator of the type of company you are known to be. In other words, you are the company you keep – an extremely telling standard by which a company’s reputation is measured.

There is another important gauge that accurately reflects your business acumen, philosophy, and practices, one that is perpetuated internally – Prime Group’s highly qualified and skilled workforce.

We recognize that our employees also are a clear reflection of the company and our core values: honesty and professionalism, and constant innovation and adaptation. So similarly, we have worked very hard at maintaining – and improving – our place in the industry by selecting, cultivating, and retaining the best possible talent.

As the true face of the company, Prime Group people represent a huge investment, one that deserves the greatest care and attention. One way to gain and retain the best talent is to continually offer opportunities for professional growth.

Education never ends – nor should it. There is always room for growth and knowledge, especially in the form of professional certifications. Investing in employee skills training not only bolsters employee expertise and knowledge, but having certified specialists on staff positively impacts the entire corporation.

In light of this, we keep a keen eye on ways to expand and enhance the skills and aptitude of our team specifically within the area of perishables and pharmaceuticals logistics. Through our relationship the World Cargo Association (WCA), the Prime Group of companies may now boast three new levels of certification among staff in several areas.

Awarded by WCAworld Academy within the last two months, they include:

  • Responsible Person Certification for Good Distribution Practices;
  • Anti-Bribery & Corruption Certifications; and
  • Responsible Person Certification for Logistics (for Good Distribution of Medicinal Products for Human Use).

This third honor, issued to Prime Logistics General Manger Edgar Campana, is most impressive as it makes us the first logistics firm in the U.S. to receive this level of certification. It signifies to the cargo world we have a representative on staff with a thorough understanding of the vast regulatory requirements for storage and distribution of materials for medicinal products in the pharmaceutical industry – not just in the U.S., but across the entire freight forwarding community worldwide.

This announcement truly is a feather in our cap. It reinforces the fact among our many stakeholders and business prospects that we are not only well positioned to do our part in the vital distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, but going forward, in to support the ongoing seasonal distribution of other biologics and pharmaceutical equipment worldwide.

I couldn’t be more proud of our staff and their dedication to elevating their professional skills and abilities while showing the world that Prime Group is succeeding in our pursuit to not only do the best, but be the best. Congratulations, team!

Prime Group looks forward to continuing to align itself with the greatest names in the business – and they are right here among our ranks.

The Inside Story on Staying Inside

“How are you doing?”

Remember when we used this line as a simple pleasantry to get a conversation started – never really expecting a response. Well, we still say it these days, but we genuinely mean it!

It’s a small but telling example of how so many things have changed in the age of the coronavirus.

One of the biggest changes is not so much how we are conducting business, but where. Right now I am writing these words at my dining room table. Earlier, I “clocked in” at my home office down the hall. And perhaps later on, I’ll pick up and move over to the kitchen island to check my email.

Working from home is not a new concept, but working from home everyday is. And although we were forced to do so to remain safe – and operational – I am not so disappointed to be realizing the everyday benefits of being here.

Number one is commute time. I used to spend hours a week traversing the highways of Miami back and forth, home to work, and out to lunch and back. Now I am at “the office” each morning in 10 seconds flat. And lunch is, well, right over there on the kitchen counter – a few seconds away by foot!

Notice I didn’t say, a few seconds away barefoot. Because while some folks might be doing that, I do wear socks, and a business shirt and slacks so I’m always ready for the next Zoom call. Which brings me to my dry cleaning bill, or rather I should say the lack thereof – and my non-existent gas and mileage expenses, as well …

At-home working brings a whole host of noteworthy cost benefits, some bigger than others, of course. Seriously though, with all this newfound time and built-in efficiencies achieved while working remotely, I’ve been able to check off a lot of the administrative items I’ve wanted to get to over years.

With none of the tedious office distractions to get in the way, I am also taking a serious look at some smart new back-office initiatives that could allow the overall Prime Group team to deliver more value to our customers over the long-term.

I am also busy brushing the dust off several to-do lists outlining possible new marketing initiatives and business growth. In the past, for instance, we only dabbled with the idea of promoting our air-cargo charter abilities. Now, rather than being solely focused on the day-to-day, I am leading the charge at accelerating expansion into this market. And it’s already paying off in the form of an all-new series of high-visibility messaging via social media and other targeted-marketing platforms.

Then there’s our sudden increased reliance on Teams, Zoom, Skype, and the like. Few examples of how COVID-19 has forced us to change the fundamental ways we work is the widespread use of video conferencing. Since instituting a company-wide ban on business travel in early March, meetings via video has become the ultimate solution to connect with our remote workers and customers. Sure it takes away many of the benefits of direct contact with sales prospects and customers – but we’ll live with that!

Have I got more time to think these things through and envision new ideas? Absolutely. Am I am appreciative of the opportunity to sharpen my focus on the health and future success of our business. Yes.

But at the same time, please know that I am also deeply concerned with the health and well being of our customers, employees, their families and friends during this time of turmoil.

So when anyone with the Prime Group asks “How are you doing,” we’re not just happy to hear your voice, we truly want to know.

We’re here, we care, and we wish you good health.

Stop Being Afraid of What Could Go Wrong And Think of What Could Go Right

Right before our eyes, the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 is changing the world as we know it – and along with it, the cargo and logistics industry.

As the coronavirus continues to be profoundly disruptive to the global supply chain, few companies have been able to escape its devastating impact, and many may not survive.

Prime Group will not be among them.

On Course
Long before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19, Prime Group had already charted a course of successful diversification. So although our core business of shipping fresh cut flowers is taking a big hit right now, we’ve been able to trim our sails and swiftly move into supporting the logistics needs of myriad other specialized industries.

And right on time.

As long-time experts in handling perishables, fortunately we’ve been able to stay busy helping to meet the worldwide demand for fresh fruit, vegetables, and fish. After all, people still need access to food supply.

And not to make light, they also have to snack while at home all day self-isolating. So our product line of Tostones is coming in quite handy for that.

But more than anything, because of our agility as a company and our well established ability in handling highly specialized pharmaceuticals and other commodities related to the medical field, this is where we are now putting great emphasis.

Doing Our Part
I know I speak for the entire Prime Group team, when I say we are very proud to be able to play this important role in helping countries across the world get access to the essential goods they need right now.

This pandemic doesn’t look quite like anything we’ve seen in our lifetime. Trying to plan or make predictions in a time of such uncertainty is really hard.

But what I do know is, as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, the people of Prime Group will continue to be there for you, our customers.

Protecting Our Team
In order to maintain the highest levels of service while protecting the health of our team, many of our employees are currently working remotely. A small staff remains in the office, where there is restricted access for all non-essential employees and visitors. Also, as our warehouses are still receiving and dispatching as normal, rest assured, we are in accordance with local health mandates and advisories.

The dedication exhibited by our team, many of whom are also facing immense personal challenges at this difficult time, has been truly remarkable.

I am confident will we make it through this trying time and come out on the other side stronger, healthier, and more resilient than ever.

I believe it was Tony Robbins who once said, “Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, and think of what could go right.” So, please stay calm, think positively, and be healthy my friends.

~ Roger Paredes – CEO

The Secret to Handling Uncertainty is to Focus on Progress

As a businessman, a father, and a member of the world community, I’m very concerned, as most of us are. I’ve been closely monitoring news of the progression of coronavirus around the globe – and its impact on the markets and the logistics industry, in particular.

Yet all I can be sure of these days is that there are very few things we can be sure of.

In fact, as I share these words, news just popped up that the global death toll has now passed 3,000, with South Korea and China leading the way in confirmed infections.

Apparently they are calling this thing a “novel” coronavirus, because it’s an all-new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. They know for sure it causes a highly infectious respiratory disease called COVID-19. But beyond that, they are unsure how and when it will be brought under control. Meanwhile, we wash our hands, cover our coughs, and limit exposure to crowded areas.

And we stay tuned. That’s what I have been doing, gathering all the information I can from trusted sources of information, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization. I encourage you to so the same.

Impact on Logistics
With regard to the health of the logistics industry, we should likewise keep a close eye on what is happening as the world’s second largest economy, in China, continues to spook global markets and dent growth in all sectors of the worldwide economy.

To say the potential impact of coronavirus on the logistics industry is a fluid situation is an understatement, because, as we all know, we are more interconnected today than ever. Asian markets are closely tied to European markets and to North America and South America.

For those who remember SARS in 2003, this situation is far more complex because back then, the economy worldwide was much more siloed. Today it is all interdependent.

Thus far, however, the impact of this epidemic on Prime Group operations has been minimal – but it’s not clear how much worse this outbreak will yet become and how long it will last. Some experts are now saying perhaps through the summer.

Global Impact
I just read a late February study by the American Chamber of Commerce stating that three-quarters of international businesses around the world expect the COVID-19 outbreak to impact 2020 revenue.

The study further states that the outbreak has affected operations “to a great extent” for 43 percent of logistics companies they surveyed in the Asia-Pacific region, with 57 percent of logistics companies saying operations were “somewhat” impacted. In terms of revenues, the report also indicated that the 86 percent of logistics companies are expecting revenue to be down between 1 and 10 percent.

What’s even more disconcerting is that the fear of what could happen is driving the markets. Yes, few things these days are for sure. But there is certainly always hope.

Let’s Focus on Progress
I think it was author and life coach Tony Robbins who once said, “The secret to handling uncertainty is to focus on progress.”

So as I get back to work this morning, I do know one thing: We are in this together. We will get past this together. If we all stay focused on progress, soon it will be business-as-usual again, I’m sure.

Out With The Old and In With The New

As we join together to celebrate the New Year and the launch of a new decade, allow me to wish you all the best in 2020, and thank you for helping to make 2019 a banner year for the companies of Prime Group Holdings.

Few holidays are celebrated the world over like New Years Day. It’s that one universal moment of bliss and hope where people all across the globe vow to toss aside the old and welcome the new.

It’s also a time when revelers partake in all sorts of traditions, like bolting down a dozen grapes right before midnight, symbolizing great promise in the 12 months ahead.

But mostly it’s about partying, dancing, drinking, and eating, which is also the case in my hometown of Quito. But there’s one big difference, something that no one else in the world does.

For as long as I remember, an essential part of our New Years holiday included celebrating with “Año Viejos effigies. Translated as “Old Years,” it consists of making and displaying artistic paper-Mache dolls – and then setting them on fire at the stroke of midnight!

These Año Viejo dolls typically represent all kinds of figures associated with the past year. Especially popular are cartoon characters, celebrated sports figures, and ridiculed politicians.

Growing up, everyone I knew did this. And it obviously isn’t just about burning brightly colored dolls. It remains a tradition because it signifies the human desire to continually improve, shed past behaviors and actions, and make way for new possibilities. It is essentially our way of joining the world in saying, “Out with the old and in with the new.”

And not to say old is bad. Because looking back and remembering is an important exercise that gives us space to reflect on all the good things that have brought us to this point. And from this point we get to grow, improve, and advance.

That’s precisely what we’re doing at Prime Group. As a company, we are at a point where smart growth and planning is bringing us great success. But I believe we can do even better – and that’s exactly what we plan to do in the year ahead.

Our overarching goal last year was to clear the way for what’s to come, by focusing on re-assessment and planning. Because as you start growing, it is imperative that you get better organized.

How we went about that was by initiating innovative business processes and technologies throughout 2019 to make way for greater efficiencies and new growth in 2020.

One example of this is the anticipated integration of a new system of software across our entire international network, provided through Microsoft Dynamics 365.

It had become nearly impossible – and totally inefficient – to manage with four different accounting systems. We were using one set of business-tracking and accounting software in Ecuador, a totally different set in New York, and another in Miami and in Amsterdam.

So for 2020, we are engaging in a companywide migration to Microsoft Dynamics 365, an all-in-one business management solution that will help us to connect financials, sales, service, and operations to streamline business processes, improve customer interactions, and make better decisions across all Prime Group divisions.

It’s powerful tool that will allow us to better manage our financials, accelerate financial close and reporting, and improve forecast accuracy.

And in the case of our product-focused divisions, it also promises to automate and secure our supply chain by optimizing inventory levels, reducing lost sales and shortages, and maximizing profitability.

Another goal – one that we actually roll out every year – is to continue growing the commercial side of our operation. We will focus on expanding our client base in all divisions: For PrimeAir, add more airlines and new territories; for Prime Logistics (formerly Prime Air & Ocean Cargo ), more importers and new suppliers; for Prime Fresh Products, more supermarket chains and new distributors; and for Prime Fresh Handling, more fish, more produce, and pursue all new lines.

Simply stated, our New Year’s resolution is “new, new, and more new” through constant innovation and adaptation. We will continue building upon our successes, and creating new possibilities and customers in all-new service areas – while maintaining our highest levels of service.

So again, from our Prime Group family to yours, we wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.

~ Roger Paredes – CEO

Holiday Season Offers Good Reason to Smile

Once a year, Prime Group’s hard-working employees turn their attention to the important task of hardly working – for one glorious night – during the company’s annual holiday party.

Last month’s gala holiday party in Downtown Miami offered an opportunity for the staff to let their hair down, as the old expression goes, and have a whole lot of fun together, as captured in these festive photos.

Hosted at the InterContinental Hotel Miami, the party was as a welcome break from the serious commitment the staff puts in all year, on behalf of the many customers of Prime Group’s four divisions: PrimeAir, Prime Logistics, Prime Fresh Products, and Prime Fresh Handling.

Holiday functions traditionally serve as a way to boost team morale and to reward loyalty – and this year’s event was no exception. But such functions are also a way by which company leadership shows genuine gratitude to their team. CEO Roger Paredes did just that, by stepping up to greet employees, their spouses and partners, and other guests as they settled in for an evening of frivolity.

Expressing his pleasure in seeing so many familiar faces and others who have left the company only to return, he noted “This is a sure sign of our success, and that the companies of Prime Group remain an attractive place to work.”

In addition to so many successes over the past year, he noted that there were of course some difficulties, as well. “But together, we were able to overcome those challenges, which were mostly market driven.”

“Our successes in 2019 were made possible by the dedication and resolute commitment of this team – now 100 employees strong – and all the things you do to help us continue to prosper, year after year.

“Without you, none of this would be possible. So, from bottom of our hearts, COO Omar Zambrano and I wish all of you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.