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PORT OF VIRGINIA PUT SUFFOLK ON THE COFFEE MAP

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PORT OF VIRGINIA PUT SUFFOLK ON THE COFFEE MAP

Coffee’s contribution is not peanuts

Established in 1742, the little town of Suffolk, Virginia served as a port along the Nansemond River in Virginia’s Tidewater region, eventually becoming a hub for railroad transportation. An Italian immigrant put Suffolk on the food production map, establishing the Planters Nut and Chocolate Company in 1912. A Peanut Queen is still crowned at the annual peanut festival.

These days, Suffolk has a newer claim to fame in the food industry. Home to several large coffee roasters including Massimo, Zanetti USA, Keurig Green Mountain, J.M. Smucker — and soon — Peets Coffee, Suffolk has become the most caffeinated city east of the Mississippi. The coffee industry has built out a cluster of related activities that generate significant employment and revenue for the people of Suffolk.

A deep commitment to Virginia coffee

Until the 1960s New York City was the undisputed home to the coffee industry. Since then, coffee has been imported through a variety of ports on the East Coast and elsewhere throughout the country, including the ports of New Orleans, Houston, Los Angeles and, of course, Seattle which is the home of Starbucks.

How did Suffolk become a coffee epicenter for the East Coast? Location and maritime advantage. Suffolk is 30 miles west of the Port of Virginia, which was the first to accept the much larger neo-Panamax ships transiting the expanded Panama Canal beginning in 2016. Port of Virginia has embarked on a $700 million expansion project of its own. By 2025, it will have a 55-foot channel depth, making it the deepest port on the East Coast, and will be able to handle an additional one million cargo containers at two of its terminals.

Centrally located on the eastern seaboard, Port of Virginia is capable of serving the major population centers east of the Mississippi. The ports of Baltimore, Savannah, Charleston and Virginia together now account for about one-third of all the green (unroasted) coffee imported into the United States. Suffolk is conveniently located to all of them.

Roasting the competition

Suffolk’s rise to roasting prominence started with one company – Hills Bros, now Massimo Zanetti. Once Hill Bros moved to Suffolk from New Jersey, others began to see its merits as an East Coast base. Building on the foundation of early investment by Lipton, which built its first plant there in 1955, the region is now the third-largest coffee and tea cluster in the country.

The City of Suffolk, together with the Virginia Economic Development Program, welcomed the industry with large industrial sites close to Port of Virginia and collaborated to have three coffee warehouse companies licensed by the International Coffee Exchange (ICE). Only beans stored under very particular, climate-controlled conditions can be certified for trading on ICE’s commodities exchange.

Bean roasting connoisseur allowing customer to smell the aroma from the coffee beans

To ensure the people of Suffolk could move into value-added jobs in the coffee industry, local educational institutions, such as Paul D. Cook Community College in Suffolk, developed training programs tailored to the industry’s needs offering new credentials such as an Industrial Technology and Electronic Controls certification.

The companies offer interesting career paths. “Cuppers” are specialized technicians who test beans for quality and taste the beans after roasting, grading their suitability and characteristics for blending. Nora Johnson came to Suffolk to work as an intern with Massimo Zanetti in 2016 as a Florida Gulf Coast University student. Upon graduating, she joined Massimo Zanetti full-time as a Commodities Analyst, analyzing customer positions on the coffee futures market and has become involved in the company’s sustainability and responsible sourcing initiatives.

Toast the roast

The coffee industry contributes approximately 10 percent of Suffolk’s gross regional product directly, and another 13 percent through indirect and induced effects. The Port of Virginia started a new annual celebration, “Coffee Day,” so everyone can toast the roast and celebrate the opportunities trade brings to the region.

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Evelyn Suarez

Evelyn Suarez is a legal expert and consultant specializing in customs compliance and anti-corruption. Ms. Suarez serves on the Virginia Maritime Association Board, and advisory boards to the George Washington University Center for International Business Education & Research and Georgetown University Law Center International Trade Update.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

World Distribution Services Announces $6.2 million Warehouse Renovation

Driven by a vision for infrastructure upgrades, technology enhancements, and new machinery, supply chain solutions provider World Distribution Services announced plans to refurbish and build 320,000 square feet of warehousing space at a facility in Virginia Beach. The added space will be solely dedicated to manufacturing and retail goods with 20,000 square feet specifically dedicated to food grade space.

“Our new warehouse will feature a top tier Warehouse Management System (WMS) with RF scanning technology. Our WMS gives our clients 24/7/365 access to their inventory data, and seamlessly integrates with their ERP systems,” said WDS SVP John Morrow. “What this means is that we can easily handle inventory management and order fulfillment services for our clients, and provide them with extremely accurate tracking, tracing, and reporting that fits their needs.”

Artistic rendering of the future World Distribution Services warehouse at 1537 Air Rail Avenue in Virginia Beach. The refurbished warehouse will be 320,000 square feet with 20,000 square feet of dedicated food-grade space.
Credit: World Distribution Services

With an estimated completion date for March 2020 and a prime location within 15 miles of Port of Virginia’s container terminals, the renovation will also bring 35 new jobs to the region.

“This company will be nearly doubling its warehousing space [in Virginia], which speaks to its success and its expectations for the future,” said VBDA Interim Economic Development Director Taylor Adams. The VBDA approved an EDIP grant of $35,000 for WDS based on the number of new jobs it will create.”

“We are very excited to be expanding our warehouse operations into Virginia Beach in 2020.  We wanted to bring high quality facilities close to the Port of Virginia to better serve our customers and to improve the work environment for our employees. Thanks to the Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development, we were able to find a facility that will meet both of those objectives,” said Duncan Wright, President of WDS.