There is a well known African proverb – when elephants fight, the grass gets trampled – that seems to sum up the experience of Bill Aboudi’s Oakland Maritime Support Services (OMSS) and the 18 small businesses that operate at OMSS, as they wait to see if the City of Oakland will allow them to move to a temporary site at the port.
Army Base businesses, including PCC Logistics and Impact Transportation as well as OMSS, have until Sept. 3 to move out of the way as construction begins on the Gateway Army Base development project.
The 18 tenants provide necessary trucking services 24 hours a day at OMSS – including tire services, engine repair, an oil collection center, live scan fingerprinting and medical services and a mini-mart.
If OMSS and these minority-owned businesses are not allowed to relocate, they face the possibility of going out of business.
As you enter the OMSS yard, you can see trucks lined up waiting for service. Mechanics dressed in their smocks are working on engines and tires. Truckers are relaxing, enjoying tacos and lattes from the mobile lunch truck on site.
Aboudi, OMSS owner, provides a comfortable space for truckers to take advantage of all the services they need in one central location; and their business helps support his tenants.
Nearly 10,000 trucks travel daily through the Port of Oakland with 4,000 truckers coming through OMSS, of which 3,000 are registered with the company.
Jesus Campos has owned Campos Tire Services, or CTS, for the past eight years, employing members of his family. If he were forced to leave the base, he again would have to begin operating a mobile business on the streets.
Working at OMSS, Campos has expanded his services, providing big rigs and cars with tire balancing and recycling old tires. Campos has six employees including his wife and daughter, studying to be a lawyer at UC Davis.
“Its very important for us to survive on this place. I think [relocating] is going to be a big problem for us because we depend on the trucks. How are the trucks going to be accessible to work with us,” said a concerned Campos.
Through his business, he also supports nonprofit The Latina Center, which offers job and food assistance to women and children.
“Here, we’re all like a co-op, we all feed off of each other. The trucks come here so this business works here; otherwise he’s a mobile mechanic. With his stock of tires, he’s able to have a base of operation, so he’s been growing,” said Aboudi.
According to Aboudi, the Oakland Fire Marshall told him that the city has seen a reduction of about $400,000 per year in the cost getting truck repair debris off the streets since 2006 when OMSS moved to the base.
Christian Brothers, owned by business partners Alberto Ortiz and Jorge Rivera, started their truck repair service eight years ago beginning with only two employees. They now have six workers repairing ECU’s – engine control units, what Ortiz calls “the brain of the engine” – and other automotive parts.
“I need a place to work. I got to make a living,” said co-owner Rivera. “I have a family and all these workers – they have families so they really need the job. We’re small business owners – they don’t want to be working on the streets, and I don’t want to be working on the streets.”
OMSS hopes to move to a temporary site on the port’s portion of the old Army Base during construction before moving to its permanent site.
If OMSS is not allowed to move, businesses that may be left out in the cold include the nonprofit Hispanic Business, Education and Training that occupies space at OMSS donated by the port to help truckers in community and economic-development.
Alyn Anays Esnel, owner of Oakland Truck Signs, or OTS, has been working on site at OMSS for three years designing logos, business cards, signs, and other customized advertising material for truckers and companies. She is studying graphic design, art, and multimedia at Berkeley City College while putting her creative skills to work at OTS.
With five part-time employees working for her, Esnel talks about how exciting it is to give other students and recent graduates a chance to gain experience.
“I can give them a job, and then they go on to get other work with experience and a reference from me,” she said.