South Florida Caribbean owned company named “Outstanding Minority Exporter of the Year”

MIAMI – Antilles Freight Corporation was the recipient of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Exporter of the Year Award at the 24th Annual Minority Enterprise Development Week (MEDWeek) Awards Gala, held October 21st in Miami.

Antilles Freight also won the Regional Award for Outstanding Performance, scoring ahead of over 30 minority firms from the states of Alabama, Mississippi, North & South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Executive Vice President, Joseph Rhoden, in accepting the Award said that his company’s meticulous operation ensures that personalized care and service are offered at both the receiving terminals in the U.S. and off-dock facilities in foreign destinations. “This attention to every detail helps to eliminate pilferage, cargo damage and other such potential headaches to our customers.”

Joe Rhoden accepting Commerce’s Outstanding Exporter Award
Left to Right: Marie Gill – Florida’s MEDWeek Coordinator & Publicist; Center, Joe Rhoden; Right, Joann Hill, U.S. Dept. of Commerce’s Chief of Regional Business Development – Atlanta

Rhoden, a Jamaican migrant, has been running Antilles Freight since 1988, along with his two partners, Cuban-American Eddie Lopez, and Louis G. Lee, another Jamaican migrant, of Asian descent. As former co-workers for other companies in the industry, the trio decided to tap their common entrepreneurial interests to form Antilles. Start-up capital came by way of their personal savings and their initial targets were Caribbean markets with which they were already familiar.

Sales for the first year quickly reached the one million dollar mark, and doubled by 1990. Today, Antilles Freight is well known and respected throughout the Continental United States. Each month, the company handles well over 15,000 shipments with a tonnage of 48,500 each, to all ports in the CARICOM region, Canada, Europe and the Far East.

“Although the first five years were the best, business is still great as the common trend today is that people want to do business with those they know and trust,” said Rhoden. The increase in hurricane activity in South Florida and the Caribbean in recent years, has become a dubious incentive that works for Antilles Freight. On the one hand, a hurricane can have a devastating effect on our overseas customers, which can have a deleterious effect on business. On the other hand, the post-hurricane need for generators, emergency supplies, and various donations in the affected countries, usually keeps us busy on the heels of these disasters.”

By the mid-2000, Antilles began embarking on various expansion initiatives to support its growth and better facilitate the needs of its customers. One such initiative was a 55,000 sq. ft. warehouse, installed with pallets to further increase the company’s storage capacity.

“This has become a significant part of our business,” Rhoden said. “Like the population in Florida, that space fills up during the winter time and empties in the spring.”

Technological improvements have also been a part of the company’s recent upgrades to more efficiently handle order-processing and tracking, customer service, and general operations.

The expansion into Air Freight has also brought new business and market opportunities for Antilles Freight. As a result of high customer demand, the company has established an air consolidation unit to manage its Air Freight business.

Of its current penetration of the Central American marketplace, Rhoden said “We have come to terms with the fact that our market is global, and we are responding accordingly. We have now become a full-service freight company that is no longer limited to one or two geographic areas. If our customers want cargo to go to the moon, we have to figure out a way to get it there.”

The company is committed to the community as it is to its client. Rhoden and his wife, Michelle, established a nonprofit foundation in 1994, and provide two annual scholarships at the University of Florida in perpetual memory of their two children who died tragically in an automobile accident in 1993. Both were students at the University at the time, one a dental student, the other an undergraduate freshman. Three recipients have graduated as a result, and are practicing Dentists today. Several others have received full undergraduate scholarships from this fund.

Rhoden also serves as a Director of the Board of the Jamaica USA Chamber of Commerce in Florida.

In presenting the Exporter of the Year Award to Antilles, MEDWeek Coordinator and Publicist, Marie Gill, said the award was determined by the Atlanta Regional Committee that looked at factors such as sales growth, new market penetration, diversity of international markets, export cargo volume, and contributions to the overall growth of the region’s foreign trade.

Gill, whose firm operates the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Enterprise Center in Miami, said “Antilles Freight is one of the star performers in our portfolio of minority business clients. Here is a management team that understands the importance of partnering, is diligent in developing new markets, excels in customer service, and gives back to the community…it doesn’t get much better than this.”

The Award for Outstanding Performance in the Region was also presented to Antilles on October 21st, by Ms. Joann Hill, Chief of Operations and second in command at the Atlanta National Enterprise Center. She flew into Miami to officially present this award.

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