Ontario International Airport Courts Chinese Versions of FedEx, UPS

Ontario International Airport

Top executives at Ontario International Airport outlined their efforts to attract major Chinese courier companies to use ONT as the major gateway and hub to the U.S. and Latin American marketplaces, similar to UPS Inc. and FedEx Corp.’s domestic e-commerce operations with Amazon.

UPS ranks No. 1 and FedEx is No. 2 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers.

Kelly Fredericks, CEO of the Ontario International Airport Authority, and the airport’s chief development officer, Mark Thorpe, shared the vision at an exporters roundtable meeting Jan. 26 at the district office of U.S. Rep. Norma Torres (D-Ontario),attended by dozens of members of the local business community.

“This is the most aggressive air service development campaign I’ve ever been involved with,” Fredericks said. “It’s not just our domestic and international passengers. When we talk air service development, it is cargo, and it is e-commerce as well.”

Among the major Chinese couriers that the Ontario airport has been courting are major China-based courier companies such as SF Express and STO Express, Thorpe said.

“Our main objective is to establish this region as the beachhead or the jumping-off point for them to come into the U.S. and connect their market to ours,” Thorpe said. “Kelly mentioned Amazon. There’s also [the China-based] Alibaba [an e-commerce company] and others in China looking to do the same thing with e-commerce, so what we want to do is benefit from the bidirectional opportunities that we’re going to see in the next few years.”

Thorpe also hopes Chinese cargo companies consider ONT as a stop between China and the Latin American marketplace.

“We want to do it on the freight logistics side,” Thorpe said. “Geographically, [we haven’t been as] blessed as much as Texas and some of the middle parts of the country, but what we do have is the focus in Asia on Southern California. This is the first place they want to be.”

Torres held the roundtable to connect with and hear from business owners who export their products internationally and offer what her congressional office, in conjunction with the local branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, can do to help.

The timing also allowed Torres a chance to chime in on recent moves by the Trump administration that affect trade, including withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Trump also has signaled his intention to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“I don’t believe President Trump has a true understanding of what this would mean to American jobs,” said Torres, who was appointed as the 115th Congress opened in the week of Jan. 23 to serve on two subcommittees of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: the Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade Subcommittee and the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee.

“We are only 3% of the global GDP," Torres said, "so for him to think that we can make it in a global economy by only selling to American buyers, that is not an attainable goal that will get us to create the types of jobs we need to grow our middle class.”

Local business exporters who spoke on a panel at the Jan. 26 roundtable said they were taking a wait-and-see approach to the Trump administration.

“As of right now, there is no new trade environment,” said Bill Coy, president of Rancho Cucamonga-based Velocity Orthopedics, which manufactures and exports instruments orthopedic surgeons use to repair sports injuries.

Another of Trump’s policies, that on immigration, also has caught the headlines, as he signed in the week of Jan. 23  an executive order to build a border wall and another order to withhold federal funding from self-declared sanctuary cities.

Mike Markowich, president of Colton-based Williams Comfort Products, said legal immigrants play a crucial role filling jobs in our economy.

Markowich, who is a Republican, said all of his employees are verified as legal residents, although Trump’s rhetoric and approach toward Mexico and building the border wall may work to dissuade legal immigration. For some of the “hard factory jobs,” Markowich said, it’s difficult for manufacturers to find a core of American workers who want them.

“I think people are going to think twice about coming here, because for now, most of these people want to get away from a government that intervenes in their lives, and if they see the same thing happening here, they’re liable not to want to come here,” he said.

Most of Markowich’s factory workers, he said, are Hispanics who have been in the country for some time, although some new hires have come recently from Mexico.

At the meeting, Markowich also called upon Fredericks and Thorpe to continue efforts to bring more direct ONT flights to other parts of the country.

“It’s difficult for [our sales associates] to get here,” Markowich said, “ … but Ontario [International Airport] is the best airport in the country, as far as I’m concerned.”