By Ashley Chambers
It appeared to be a dream come true for small businessman Miguel Silva, owner of Horizon Freight, when he landed a three-year contract to transport German-made glass that will be used in the construction of Apple computer’s new “spaceship” campus in Cupertino, a 2.8-million-square-foot building scheduled to be built by 2015.
But that dream is turning into a nightmare. He may be evicted from his business based at Oakland Maritime Support Services (OMSS) on the city’s property at the Army Base on Sept. 3, the same day the first load of expensive glass is expected to arrive at the Port of Oakland from Germany.
Although eviction notices have been served, OMSS has yet to receive a lease for temporary space on the Army Base property, leaving Silva and his company desperately seeking alternative locations to continue business.
He is busy preparing his flat racks to load the glass, but he is unsure what will happen.
Ten years ago, Silva – originally from Peru – was faced with the same dilemma when he was doing business at the building across from OMSS on Maritime Street.
“The city gave us notice because they were going to redevelop,” says Silva. “They kicked us out of there. We lost close to $6 million in business and as a matter of fact, my brother who used to be in business with me at the time, had to go bankrupt, and he’s no longer in the industry.”
Now 10 years later, the building where Silva previously operated still stands. He says the redevelopment project is once again placing his business in jeopardy and compromising the trust of his customers, among them Apple and retailer Urban Outfitters.
When he told Apple he might not be able to load and transport their five shipments a week for the next three years due to his possible eviction, the company was very concerned, he said.
“Their reaction was that of concern, not concern because I could or could not do the job, but it was mostly concern about the unstable situation of Oakland. They wanted to do business with me – I was able to satisfy the need that they had at the rates that they had,” Silva explained.
Silva said Apple asked him, “What kind of problems are we going to face in Oakland, and should we choose to go elsewhere? Should we just reroute this cargo?”
“That’s the reality of the shipper,” he said. “They must make sure that all their bases are covered in case a situation like this happens.”
Silva says he transports an average of 25 to 30 containers a day with 27 drivers and seven staff members, while now he must also seek a place where he can relocate in order to preserve his livelihood and that of all those who work for him.
His business needs an open space big enough for oversized loads and parking of large containers. Silva and his crew manage the daily labor with a 30,000-pound forklift on a loading dock. He says the collaboration with fellow businesses at OMSS and his friendly competitor AB Trucking “allows us all to stay in business.”
“I have staff and drivers and community and customers that work with me and depend on me to do this daily business,” Silva said.
“Now we’re going to tear down these buildings, to attract whom? Are we really incentivizing business and small businesses and growth for Oakland?” Silva asked.
Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 23, 2013