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Miami-Based International Exporter Pivoted During Pandemic, Now Facing New Hurdles

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - South Florida has a number of warehouse facilities that house thousands of businesses. From auto body repair work to custom furniture sales and micro-breweries, the variety would surprise you.

"We supply hotels all over the world," said David Zalcberg, owner of Smart Supply International which has freight forwarding facilities in Miami and Spain. "Everything you see in the hotel, from kitchen equipment to plates in the restaurant, to sheets in the rooms, the fans in the rooms, to the pool table."

Anyone who has vacationed in the Caribbean has likely encountered products that have come through Smart Supply International's warehouse.

It was a growing business and then along came the coronavirus pandemic.

"We came to a complete stop because our customers had to shut down. We stopped receiving purchase orders, we stopped receiving requests, we stopped receiving e-mails, we stopped receiving payments," said Zalcberg who had to lay off employees.

Looking for a way to keep his business going, Zalcberg worked with Florida International University's Small Business Development Center.

"We were able to assist him with a paycheck protection program and also an economic injury disaster loan to keep afloat during the pandemic," Brian Van Hook, regional director of the Small Business Development Center.

Guided by the Small Business Development Center, Zalcberg diversified his business and sought U.S. government contracts along with updating his financial and business practices.

"In the past three months we have seen a significant movement again," said Zalcberg.

As more Americans beginning o travel, hotels are filling up and Caribbean nations are opening to tourists.

As the orders come in, Zalcberg is faced with a new hurdle that is affecting a number of other businesses - difficulty in hiring new workers and dealing with a slow supply chain.

"Our suppliers don't have the staff they used to have," he said.

Zalcberg added that they are making do for now and he can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

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