Doral-based Imperial Freight Brokers ‘a travel agent for boxes’

Simply put, says Ralph De La Rosa Jr., Imperial Freight Brokers is “an advocate and travel agent for boxes, moving them down the street or across the globe — and taking care of all the details.”

“There are a lot of details in international trade, and handling all of them for our clients is what makes the business,” says De La Rosa, owner and president of the Doral-based business.

Imperial is a full-service logistics company, handling imports, exports, land, sea and air freight, warehousing, distribution, order fulfillment, temperature-sensitive shipments and all aspects of the supply chain. The firm, which has 20 employees, owns and operates its own trucking company, has a network of agents throughout North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and provides consulting on domestic and international trade. It works with air and seaports in South Florida and other parts of the United States.

Imperial serves a wide range of importers, exporters and other clients in the food and non-alcoholic beverage sectors, spirits, tobacco products, as well as equipment and materials used in public and private construction projects. “For example, an important part of our business is ‘project cargo,’” De La Rosa says. “This covers everything that’s needed for construction projects.” Imperial will retrieve shipments of merchandise like high-impact glass and wood moldings at South Florida ports, move them through customs and then ship them to customers’ work sites by truck or store them in a warehouse for future delivery.

Many shipments to construction projects in the United States require advance planning, and the company tailors its deliveries — which sometimes involve bulldozers and other heavy equipment — to the clients’ needs, De La Rosa says. Imperial sends people to project sites all over the country to get details on the construction site, traffic patterns, access roads, storage space and other information.

“We need to talk to clients and project managers to understand exactly what they need. Otherwise we can’t provide the right solution,” he says. “We can’t just show up with a 53-foot tractor-trailer loaded with merchandise or heavy equipment unless we’re sure it can be unloaded and delivered efficiently.”

Imperial also manages imports of frozen lobsters from Jamaica, wines from Chile, Spain and Italy, tequila from Mexico and finished cigars from Central America, the Dominican Republic and Europe.

“We also export food products, fruit juice and electronic equipment,” De La Rosa says. “We have customers all over the U.S. and overseas.”

A licensed customs broker, De La Rosa took over as president of Imperial in 1998, after working as a manager at First Union Bank in areas such as foreign exchange and investment services. He has a bachelor’s degree in finance administration from Florida International University and also is a licensed securities agent.

Imperial was started by De La Rosa’s father, Ralph De La Rosa Sr., in 1971. “My dad wanted a name that could be easily pronounced and spelled in English and Spanish, so he chose Imperial,” De La Rosa says.

The father, who emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba, found his first jobs in New York City. “He worked there as a messenger for a customs broker during the day, then worked at night at a print shop that made stock certificates,” De La Rosa says. “On weekends, he sold beer at Yankee Stadium.”

De La Rosa’s father moved to Miami after his house in Astoria, Queens, burned down. Here, he opened a branch office for the New York brokerage firm where he was working. After that company closed, he started Imperial as a customs brokerage business, picking up imports that arrived in Miami and moving them through customs for his clients.

“We used to be a mom-and-pop business,” De La Rosa says. “Over the years, we changed from a customs brokerage firm to freight forwarding and later, as our customers’ needs evolved, added more services and expanded to cover the entire supply chain.”

Ralph De La Rosa Sr. and other pioneers who helped build Miami into a center for international trade are remembered in a monument at the entrance to PortMiami erected by the Florida Foreign Trade Association. “He was one of the people who put Miami on the map in international trade,” De La Rosa says. The senior De La Rosa died in 2001.

On a recent visit to Imperial’s headquarters, employees were working to add more space in an adjacent building for the business offices and warehouse on Northwest 102nd Place. “We have been blessed,” De La Rosa says. “2015 was the best year in our history — revenues were up 40 percent from 2014 — and so far business this year is double the first quarter of 2015.”

Even though trade moving through PortMiami is down this year, De La Rosa says Imperial has seen growth from its existing clients and has been able to add new business and diversify its base in a sector where competition is fierce.

One way Imperial attracts new business is through a combination of personal attention to clients and a complete portfolio of domestic and international services. “A new client told us, ‘I don’t want to be treated like everyone else. I want global reach and personal service.’ And that’s what we offer,” De La Rosa says.

“Our employees make all the difference. When they deal with clients, they act like they’re owners. It’s not easy. You are judged every day on the level of your service.”

Here are links to some of Joseph A. Mann’s recent articles in Business Monday:

Abbott provides branded generics to Latin America, Caribbean

Hialeah’s Naveles helps make warehouses work

OJL Forklifts in Hialeah finds a lucrative niche

Miami-based Conergy powers globe

Tran Logistics: a small Miami-based company with a global reach

Miami-based Lazaro Delivery serves large, small companies in international trade

Imperial Freight Brokers

Business: Privately owned Imperial Freight Brokers began as a customs brokerage firm 45 years ago and has evolved into a full-service logistics company, handling imports, exports, land, sea and air freight, warehousing, distribution, order fulfillment, temperature-sensitive shipments and all aspects of the supply chain. The Doral-based firm, which owns and operates its own trucking company, has a network of agents throughout North America, as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Imperial also provides consulting on domestic and international trade. The headquarters includes administration and sales offices, plus a warehouse, and is in the midst of a major expansion.

Headquarters: 2287 NW 102nd Pl., Doral.

Founded: In 1971 by Ralph De La Rosa Sr.

Owner and president: Ralph De La Rosa Jr.

Employees: 20.

Customers: Importers of food products, spirits and materials used in construction projects, plus exporters of food products, beverages and electronics. Imperial has clients throughout the U.S. and overseas.

Website: www.imperialfreight.com

Source: Imperial Freight Brokers.

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