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Risky business? Balancing Mexico’s pandemic response with tourism

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Risky business? Balancing Mexico's pandemic response with tourism


(GFN) — Along the beaches of Mexico, typically teeming with vacationers, there is a struggle between two powerful forces that won’t be going anywhere anytime soon: The very real concern for health and safety during the pandemic and an equally valid concern for economic survival.
Though Mexico has logged more than 180,000 Covid-19 deaths, it has some of the world’s loosest entry requirements for foreigners. Visitors aren’t required to submit negative test results, and there is no mandatory quarantine.

The pandemic’s economic effect on the tourism industry has still been devastating.

The world’s seventh most popular tourist destination, Mexico’s economy has grown to depend on what amounted in 2019 to about $25 billion in income from 45 million international visitors, according to estimates from the National Tourism Business Council (CNET) and a center for tourism research at Universidad Anáhuac.

Mexico saw international tourism income in 2020 sliced to less than half that of 2019, according to those figures. And 2021 isn’t looking much better.


New home-country restrictions are creating more travel hurdles for Mexico’s biggest groups of international visitors — Covid-19 testing requirements for travelers returning to the United States and Mexico flight suspensions for Canadians, making the light at the end of the tunnel for tourism recovery seem even dimmer.
Across Mexico, tourist destinations are operating on limited capacity per Covid-19 regulations. The country is struggling to adapt to its slowest high season in memory, with limited government help for many workers and businesses struggling to make ends meet.

“I guess Mexico has been doing what it can do,” said birdwatching guide Alex Martínez Rodríguez, but he said he doesn’t feel that the populist government is acting in the best interest of the people.

“They did the thing where we were avoiding crowds, keeping people in their houses and doing lockdowns, but that doesn’t work because the economy is a little bit different in Mexico,” said Martínez Rodríguez, who typically guides at least five tours per week in and around Puerto Vallarta. Now, he’s guiding two or three per month.

Many people in Mexico “make their money on a daily basis,” he says, so to eat that day, they must work that day. Much of the country’s population (more than half in 2018) is part of the informal economy, without much government oversight or labor protection.

“We in Mexico know that we cannot rely on the government; we have to do things for ourselves,” he says.

The Mexican federal government and several states have offered limited assistance compared with the nation’s northern neighbors, including one-time microloans of up to about $1,200 for people who can prove they are unemployed because of Covid-19. But with such a large informal workforce, the assistance has not been far-reaching.


Keeping business moving


In April 2020, Mexico made it clear that it would not be closing its borders, and indeed airports never restricted flights. Land crossing points were ordered to ban nonessential travel, but many travelers with a US or Canada-plated RV in the Baja California Peninsula have reported that the measure was arbitrarily enforced.

“There is no plan because there is no intention of using the border closure mechanism as if it were useful for the control of the epidemic,” said Mexico’s top epidemiologist, Dr. Hugo López-Gatell, at a news conference last year, adding that closing borders would not help slow the virus given Mexico’s population of more than 127 million. “On the other hand, it would affect the supply of inputs and the transit of people.”

As far as national tourism goes, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador had been on a campaign to end long holiday weekends in Mexico, encouraging the celebration of significant events on the actual calendar date. But the plan was rescinded in May 2020 to bolster national tourism during Covid-19 because of economic concerns for tourist sites.

GFN reached out to Mexico’s secretary of tourism for more information on the pandemic response as it relates to tourism but has not heard back.
A vendor waits for tourists at Teotihuacan, one of Mexico’s top tourist attractions, on September 10, 2020.

Claudio Cruz/AFP via Getty Images

Enrique de la Madrid, former Mexican tourism secretary, said in a recent interview on “Es la Hora de Opinar,” a Mexican TV program, that “poverty also kills, not just coronavirus.”

De la Madrid argues that members of the tourism sector, including hotel workers and taxi drivers, should be among those receiving early vaccinations that the government is currently administering to essential workers and the elderly. In December, Mexico was the first country in Latin America to launch its coronavirus vaccination campaign.

“We have to help the sectors that move the economy, if not, the economy will not move and it is a social tragedy of terrible dimensions,” de la Madrid said.


‘Nothing compares’


Martínez Rodríguez, the birdwatching guide, said he has never witnessed such economic devastation in his 20 years in the tourism business.

“Not the world recession, not H1N1, nothing compares,” he says. “It will take three or four years for us to come out of this.”

Involved in conservation efforts to protect wild macaws in the region, he says another concern is that along Mexico’s coastline where development has been rampant, the majority of financial backing for conservation efforts comes from the entrance fees paid by tourists. As those fees dry up, it could mean catastrophic effects in the long term.

“You cannot blame people for canceling their trips,” he says. “Obviously people are doing what they are told and are doing everything they can to preserve their health.”

Among the harshest blows yet to tourism in Mexico came on January 29 when Canada announced that it would suspend all its major airline flights to Mexico and the Caribbean for three months — during high season — to step up Covid-19 prevention measures in the face of new variants.


Mexican officials balked at the decision.

“The government of Mexico calls for the most recent measure announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be withdrawn as soon as possible in order to prevent a deep economic crisis in the North American region,” officials said in a joint statement from Mexico’s Ministries of Tourism and Foreign Affairs.

Yet Canada has gone ahead with the suspension, making the 2021 outlook all the more dire.

Mexican tourism officials report that Canada’s cancellations alone would mean a loss of around $782 million dollars during the three-month period.

The flight suspension by Canadian airlines followed the implementation in late January of a new negative testing requirement for travelers returning to the United States — a measure that is likely to discourage some American travelers from venturing to Mexico.

More devastation for tourism


In Huatulco, a low-key vacation town on Oaxaca’s coast, the impact of Canada’s flight suspension has been taking a toll. Ron Williams, owner of Las Palmas Villas & Casitas, says business has been down by about 80% over the past year.

“This is devastating for Huatulco,” Williams says. “Canadian tourism has been slow since the beginning of Covid-19, but at least the Canadians that owned winter homes here were still coming and that created a lifeline for small businesses, but now even homeowners have decided not to stay due to the flight situation.”

Guests are canceling even more so now because of perceived hassles related to new testing for returning travelers headed to the US and Canada, as well as stringent and expensive post-travel regulations in Canada.

In Huatulco, as in many foreign travel destinations in Mexico, healthcare providers have rushed to meet the demand of 24-hour turnaround for PCR tests so that tourists can arrange testing at their accommodations for extra convenience.

For those who are willing to make the trip, Williams offers suggestions for how to travel safely and peacefully, including hiring private chefs rather than dining out, and choosing warm destinations to visit where much of life is lived outdoors.

Williams said he will continue to pay his employees their normal salary as long as he can to support them and the local economy, though many Mexican workers aren’t as fortunate.

From stores to restaurants to tour groups and hotels, millions of people have been laid off or are underemployed, with little support from the Mexican government.


Balancing lives and livelihoods


Nuria Girones, a former tour guide in Mexico City, says she found herself without work immediately as the pandemic spread. She has since had to diversify her income sources. Even so, she believes that Mexico is too lax in its regulations and has not found an adequate balance between protecting local health and local livelihoods.

“Like any other country, it is improvising with all possible resources in the face of an unprecedented situation that changes every week,” Girones said.

Girones said that people quickly forget that most of Mexico was until recently under a “red light,” according to the alert system Mexico uses to indicate Covid-19 risk, available hospital space and capacity limits for public spaces. Red indicates the highest risk and the most restrictions. Most of the country is now designated orange.

Even if she had the opportunity to give tours, she says she wouldn’t because “we have not yet passed the crisis, cooperation is needed from all sectors, even from tourists.”

“We are also observing since last year that the consequences of not taking this crisis seriously will lengthen the time without income,” Girones said. “My work stopped completely since the end of February 2020, for a few months I decided to wait for it to pass. I imagine that many of us did the same. Finally, I accepted that this might not change for some years.”


Tensions among travelers and locals


Meanwhile, events such as the Art With Me festival in Tulum, where pandemic precautions were widely flouted, have been labeled as superspreader situations, raising red flags about tourist behavior.

And there’s tension with foreign property owners who have more economic security than some of the locals they live among.

A business owner in Baja California Sur, speaking on condition of anonymity because of fears of community backlash, said the tension between the desires of some foreign residents and locals is high. It’s a tension that highlights the economic disparity between Mexico and the wealthier Canada and United States.

“There are Americans that own second homes here and are strongly requesting that no more tourists come, but meanwhile the businesses are suffering,” said the business owner, who needs every bit of income. “Many places have gone out of business, and others remain open trying to earn what little money there is coming in.”

Settling into the height of the second winter tourism season ravaged by Covid-19, the interests of health vs. economic welfare continue their tussle, in many cases highlighting visitors’ privilege and a lack of choice for locals who depend on tourism for their survival.


Business: freight shipping rates climb

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Investor interest in the shipping sector is growing as freight rates are rising. Shares in shipping companies are having a bumper year amid strong demand for Asia-made goods and skyrocketing shipping prices. Profits have accelerated, boosted by soaring freight rates from North Asia to the U.S. and Europe.

The oil industry’s top lobbying group is preparing to endorse setting a price on carbon emissions in what would be the strongest signal yet that oil and gas producers are ready to accept government efforts to confront climate change. The American Petroleum Institute is poised to embrace putting a price on carbon emissions.

Royal Caribbean’s new ship, the Odyssey of the Seas, will be setting sail in May from Israel with a Covid-19 vaccine requirement. The announcement represents the new ship’s first trip, Royal Caribbean’s first voyage from Israel, and the company’s first cruise with a vaccination requirement.

Futures are moderately lower after stocks soared yesterday. The Dow Industrials rallied 603, the Nasdaq jumped 396 and the S&P 500 gained 90.


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AWS Launches Second Region in Japan

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Thunderbird Entertainment Group Reports on Fiscal Year 2020 Financial Results | Business



Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS), an company (NASDAQ:AMZN), today announced the launch of a second full region in Japan, the AWS Asia Pacific (Osaka) Region. The region is an expansion of the existing AWS Osaka Local Region, which opened to select customers in February 2018. The new region consists of three Availability Zones (AZs) and joins the existing 25 Availability Zones in eight AWS Regions across Asia Pacific in Beijing, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Ningxia, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney, and Tokyo. Globally, AWS has 80 Availability Zones across 25 geographic regions, with plans to launch 15 more Availability Zones and five more AWS Regions in Australia, India, Indonesia, Spain, and Switzerland. Starting today, developers, startups, and enterprises, as well as government, education, and non-profit organizations can leverage the new AWS Asia Pacific (Osaka) Region to run their applications locally, serve end-users across Asia with lower latency, and access the broadest and deepest suite of services available in the cloud. For more information on AWS’s global infrastructure, go to:

“We launched the AWS Osaka Local Region to help select customers run specific workloads in western Japan. Since then, customers have asked AWS to launch a second full region with multiple Availability Zones and broad service selection in the country, and today we’re excited to deliver on those requests,” said Peter DeSantis, Senior Vice President of Global Infrastructure and Customer Support, AWS. “Together with the AWS Asia Pacific (Tokyo) Region, the AWS Asia Pacific (Osaka) Region provides customers with even lower latency to end users in Japan, as well as the ability to architect workloads across multiple Availability Zones and multiple regions in Japan for even greater fault tolerance, resiliency, and availability.”

“Congratulations on the opening of AWS Osaka Region. The government has adopted a “cloud-by-default” principle and basic policy prioritizing the use of cloud services, and we welcome AWS as a part of our services,” said Takuya Hirai, Member of the House of Representatives and Minister of State for Digital Transformation. “The mission of the Japan Digital Transformation Agency, scheduled to be established in September 2021, is to think about how systems should be run on the cloud in order to promote standardization and interoperability, which are necessary for both national and local governments to promote digitalization. In cooperation with various companies, including AWS, we will do our utmost to promote the digitalization of Japan.”

AWS Regions are comprised of Availability Zones, which place infrastructure in separate and distinct geographic locations with enough distance to significantly reduce the risk of a single event impacting customers’ business continuity, yet near enough to provide low latency for high availability applications. Each Availability Zone has independent power, cooling, and physical security and is connected via redundant, ultra-low-latency networks. AWS customers focused on high availability can design their applications to run in multiple Availability Zones and across multiple regions to achieve even greater fault tolerance. Additionally, Japanese customers, from startups to enterprises and the public sector, will have additional infrastructure to leverage advanced technologies including compute, storage, analytics, database, machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), mobile services, and more to drive innovation. The launch of a second AWS Region in Japan provides customers with even lower latency across the country and supports disaster recovery applications for business continuity.

Customers and AWS Partners welcome the new AWS Asia Pacific (Osaka) Region

Millions of active customers use AWS each month in over 190 countries around the world, and hundreds of thousands of active customers use AWS services in Japan each month to accelerate innovation, increase agility, and drive cost savings. Organizations across Japan moving their mission-critical workloads to the cloud include customers such as Bellsystem24, Gibraltar Life Insurance, KDDI, Kindai University, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Nabtesco Corporation, NRI, NTT East, OGIS-RI CO. ltd., Prudential Life Insurance, Sony Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance, and many more.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), whose business operations include commercial banks, trust banks, securities, and credit cards, adopted a cloud-first strategy and announced its full AWS deployment in 2017. “We have been making steady progress in IT architecture transformation and digitalization by leveraging AWS to build new systems,” said Hiroki Kameda, Managing Corporate Executive and Group CIO of MUFG. “AWS enabled us to build a big data platform for all our bank and group data so that we can use it flexibly, streamline administrative processes such as tremendous data entry work using AI, migrate a part of a market risk management system, and conduct applied research in more advanced AI algorithms and other new technologies. We reduced large costs by migrating and building a new system on AWS compared to on-premises. We have been using the AWS Osaka Local Region, and its expansion into the AWS Asia Pacific (Osaka) Region will enable us to actively run even more workloads and systems to enhance the agility and availability of our customer services. With digital technology playing an increasingly important role in our competitiveness, we will continue to grow our digital workforce both quantitatively and qualitatively to further drive our digital transformation.”

Sony Bank is an Internet bank established in 2001 as an asset management bank for individuals. It provides various financial services such as foreign currency deposits, home loans, investment trusts, and debit cards. “Since the end of 2013, we have been gradually migrating our general internal business systems and banking peripheral systems onto AWS, and by the end of 2019, approximately 80 percent of our systems had been running on AWS,” said Tatsuya Fukushima, Executive Officer leading the System Planning Department, System Development Department, and System Administration Department of Sony Bank. “As a result, infrastructure-related costs have been reduced by up to 60 percent compared to on-premises systems, and infrastructure procurement and construction time have been cut by more than half. We are currently building a next-generation banking system on AWS with a cloud-native architecture designed to ensure high availability by utilizing the AWS services in both the Tokyo and Osaka regions, so the AWS Asia Pacific (Osaka) Region is key to our future plans. As an Internet bank, we will continue to improve management efficiency and provide products and services that meet our customers’ needs.”

KDDI Corporation (KDDI), established in 2000, is engaged in telecommunications, Internet, financial services, electricity distribution, intelligent consumer appliances, and other businesses both in Japan and overseas. KDDI started using AWS as its official cloud vendor in 2016 after AWS met its stringent internal security standards. “I am delighted that the AWS Osaka Local Region has expanded into a full AWS Region in such a short time,” said Akihiro Nakashima, Administrative Officer and Deputy General Manager, Service Planning and Development Division, Solutions Business Sector, KDDI Corporation. “KDDI currently develops and operates more than 60 services on AWS, such as the back end for our power supply business ‘au Denki’, ‘au Home’, which leverages IoT to make everyday life more convenient, and the subsystem of ‘au PAY’, a smartphone service that allows payment with QR codes. Leveraging AWS Asia Pacific (Osaka) Region, we will be able to provide additional business continuity services through multi-region operations in Japan.”

Founded in 1983, OGIS-RI CO., ltd. is a global IT consulting firm providing information strategy, systems integration, systems development, network construction, support, and security solutions. OGIS-RI CO., ltd. is a group company of Osaka Gas Group. “Osaka Gas was the first in Japan to deploy IoT technology in consumer gas appliances in April 2016 using AWS. We have since been selling ENE FARM fuel cells, gas water heaters, and other products connected to the Internet around the clock,” said Kosuke Nakatani, Director, Executive Officer and Member of the Board, Head of IT Platform Service Division, OGIS-RI CO., ltd., which develops and manages the IT systems of Daigas Group (previously known as Osaka Gas Group) companies. “We use AWS to provide our enterprise customers with ‘ekul,’ a simple data measurement service that measures and visualizes gas and electricity usage in real time and transmits information to corporate customers across the country. We also provide cloud integration services based on our experience in the migration of on-premises business systems to AWS and system development on AWS. With the launch of the AWS Asia Pacific (Osaka) Region, we are very pleased to offer our customers in the Kansai area a selection of multiple regions with low latency, enabling us to have even greater availability.”

Sansan, established in 2007, is the provider of “SanSan,” a corporate business card management cloud service, and “Eight,” a business card app, under the mission of “creating innovation through encounters.” Seita Fujikura, CTO of Sansan, said, “Business cards are the proof of business encounters. SanSan and Eight solve various issues that business people face by accurately converting into data and utilizing the business cards that are captured every day. Our applications are configured on several hundred Amazon EC2 instances. By utilizing a variety of AWS services, we are able to substantially reduce costs and develop our products based on customer requests. The AWS Asia Pacific (Osaka) Region will help us further evolve our products and services and provide new value as a business infrastructure.”

Founded in 1925, Kindai University provides learning to all ages and is one of the largest universities in western Japan with 48 departments ranging from medicine to the arts with 52,000 students enrolled. “Kindai University migrated our teaching system and all 17 cloud-enabled business systems to AWS from on-premises systems in 2015 based on an estimation that the initial investment cost would be reduced by about 70 percent and the total cost of initial investment and running costs over 10 years would be reduced by another 20 percent compared to on-premises systems,” said Takumi Ueda, Educational and Administrative Information Systems Department of Kindai University. “AWS enables us to provide a powerful, stable system for our students and faculty, and the opening of the AWS Asia Pacific (Osaka) Region gives us the opportunity to provide increased availability and even lower latency.”

AWS Partner Network (APN) Partners welcomed the arrival of a second AWS Region in Japan. The APN includes tens of thousands of Independent Software Vendors (ISV) and Systems Integrators (SI) around the world. AWS Partners build innovative solutions and services on AWS, and the APN helps by providing business, technical, marketing, and go-to-market support. SI Consulting Partners supporting enterprise and public sector customers migrating to AWS include Classmethod, CTC, FUJISOFT, iret, NEC, NTT Data, SCSK, Serverworks and many others. APN ISVs in Japan including Acroquest Technology, AptPod, Digital Cube, Hatena, VMware, Works Human Intelligence, and many others, are already using AWS to deliver their software to customers around the world and will serve their Japanese customers from the AWS Asia Pacific (Osaka) Region at launch. Customers can also easily find, trial, deploy, and buy software solutions for AWS on the AWS Marketplace. For the full list of the members of the AWS Partner Network, please visit:

NEC is an IT vendor that has been driving innovation in Japan since 1899 and is a premier consulting partner in the APN. NEC has a vision of creating a positive impact on society through technological advances. “The inauguration of the AWS Asia Pacific (Osaka) Region significantly broadens NEC’s service infrastructure offering in Japan, and we are happy to help accelerate our customers’ innovation efforts,” said Toshifumi Yoshizaki, Senior Vice President, NEC. “NEC has a long history as an AWS Partner, having joined the AWS Partner Network in 2012 and becoming a certified Premier Consulting Partner in 2016. In 2020, we became the first company in Japan to embark on a strategic corporate-level collaboration with AWS. This collaboration enabled us to provide higher-level managed services to government and corporate customers pursuing digital transformation. NEC Group will be increasing the number of AWS-certified personnel to 3,000 over the next three years and will continue to support large-scale cloud migration projects by significantly strengthening its delivery capabilities.”

VMware Cloud on AWS is a jointly engineered service that brings VMware’s enterprise-class software-defined data center software to the AWS Cloud. Delivered as an on-demand service with optimized access to AWS services, VMware Cloud on AWS enables IT teams to leverage the best of both worlds. “AWS is VMware’s preferred public cloud partner for all VMware vSphere-based workloads. And VMware Cloud on AWS is the preferred AWS solution for vSphere workloads,” said Tadashi Yamanaka, Vice President and General Manager, VMware Japan. “We look forward to serving the needs of customers in Japan with the expansion of VMware Cloud on AWS to the AWS Asia Pacific (Osaka) Region. This expansion will provide our customers in western Japan with more geographic diversity and disaster recovery alternatives. Customers throughout the country will also gain more flexibility to move their vSphere workloads to VMware Cloud on AWS for application modernization, as well as improved agility, cost and security.”

Works Human Intelligence Co., Ltd (Works HI), the provider of COMPANY, one of the top HR Payroll ERP software package systems in Japan, is an ISV Partner with AWS. “Works HI first adopted AWS in 2012 when we launched the cloud version of our software solution COMPANY. We continue to modernize the architecture of the SaaS version of COMPANY and enhance its functionality by making use of the multitude of AWS services available in Japan.” said Asahi Morita, Product Division Senior General Manager at Works Human Intelligence. “The opening of the AWS Asia Pacific (Osaka) Region helps us support a greater number of customers with mission-critical operations and business continuity support with our COMPANY software solution by making it available across multiple regions in Japan.”

Amazon’s Continued Investment in Japan

In March 2011, AWS launched the AWS Asia Pacific (Tokyo) Region with two Availability Zones as the company’s fifth AWS Region. A third Tokyo AZ was added in 2012 and fourth in 2018 to help customers build highly available and fault-tolerant applications across the region’s four existing AZs. In February 2018, AWS launched the Osaka Local Region to enable compliance with guidelines for applications that require even greater distance between Availability Zones for select customers. As a response to further customer demand for a standard region in western Japan, today AWS is extending the capability of the Osaka Local Region by expanding it into a standard AWS Region.

Amazon is also continuing to invest in the upskilling of local developers, students, and the next generation of IT leaders in Japan through programs such as AWS Academy and AWS Educate. AWS Academy provides higher education institutions with a free, ready-to-teach cloud computing curriculum that prepares students to pursue industry-recognized certifications and in-demand cloud jobs. AWS Educate provides student access to AWS services and content designed to build knowledge and skills in cloud computing.

About Amazon Web Services

For almost 15 years, Amazon Web Services has been the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform. AWS has been continually expanding its services to support virtually any cloud workload, and it now has more than 200 fully featured services for compute, storage, databases, networking, analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), mobile, security, hybrid, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), media, and application development, deployment, and management from 80 Availability Zones (AZs) within 25 geographic regions, with announced plans for 15 more Availability Zones and five more AWS Regions in Australia, India, Indonesia, Spain, and Switzerland. Millions of customers—including the fastest-growing startups, largest enterprises, and leading government agencies—trust AWS to power their infrastructure, become more agile, and lower costs. To learn more about AWS, visit

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SOURCE: Amazon Web Services, Inc.

Copyright Business Wire 2021.

PUB: 03/01/2021 10:37 PM/DISC: 03/01/2021 10:37 PM

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Love’s Bakery to close after 170 years in business

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Love's Bakery to close after 170 years in business


Locally owned and operated, Love’s Bakery,
a fixture in Hawaii for over 169 years will cease operations at the end of March due to losses
attributable to Covid-19.
“Love’s Bakery has been a beloved brand for nearly 170 years,” stated the Love’s Bakery Management
Team. “We have worked diligently to cut expenses, to maintain our market share and to remedy our
operational difficulties, however under the current business environment we are no longer able to
continue operations. Love’s local management is committed to closing its doors in a responsible
manner. We wish to thank all of our employees, suppliers, customers, friends, neighbors, and business
partners for their loyalty and support.”


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