Foreign trade zone could benefit county

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 24, 2001

A foreign trade zone? In Lawrence County, Ohio?<!—->.

Wednesday, January 24, 2001

A foreign trade zone? In Lawrence County, Ohio?

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It’s not as strange as it may sound, said Roger Haley, the LEDC’s site manager for The Point.

"I really think that this could be the final touch to bring in the type of companies we need in this county," Haley said.

Representatives of the LEDC – Lawrence Economic Development Corporation – local companies and Chamber of Commerce members gathered Tuesday to hear from the Rickenbacker Port Authority.

Rickenbacker, based in Columbus, operates federal Foreign Trade Zone No. 138. It can offer partnerships to communities throughout the state that want to become a part of the zone.

Its mission?

To facilitate the development of central and southern Ohio as a competitive multi-modal port serving international and regional markets, said Leslie D. Barth, Rickenbacker’s business development manager.

In other words, it’s an attraction for companies that want to trade in global products.

"If we can encourage global international trade, it helps communities by making them more attractive (for economic development) and helps us build our air freight business," Ms. Barth said.

For example, say your DuPont plant brings in chemicals from foreign countries to make a specialty product.

Normally, it would pay substantial import fees but being in a foreign trade zone would allow the company to postpone paying those taxes, she said. And, if DuPont’s product must travel to another foreign trade zone to be used in another company’s product, it avoids the tariffs altogether.

"It is considered an area outside U.S. Customs territory," Ms. Barth said.

Zones also offer tax incentives, the ability to store products without fees until they hit the consumer market, and can offer a reduction in foreign fees, she said.

The idea is to attract international clients needing a foreign trade zone to an industrial site, she said.

"If that’s important to a client and you can’t say, ‘I have it’ or ‘I can get it ‘ you’re quickly not included in that company’s available land choice."

Haley said a foreign trade zone is definitely needed as an attraction at The Point – the LEDC’s 504-acre industrial site in South Point, which is part of the Ironton-Huntington, W.Va., Empowerment Zone.

"We’ve struggled so long without things to entice industry," he said. "Now, we can have a park that will match anybody’s in the country."

The LEDC has not made a final decision but is considering the costs of partnering with Rickenbacker.

For a 50-acre area to be included in its foreign trade zone, the cost is $30,000 spread over several years. The maximum cost – for 450 acres or more – is $165,000 over several years.

If county leaders tried to establish their own trade zone, without Rickenbacker’s help, the costs would become substantially higher because the zones are regulated differently now by the federal government than when Rickenbacker established its zone, Ms. Barth said.

The Point would become a part of Rickenbacker’s zone if the plan is approved.

Haley said the costs would be recovered from revenue produced by the industrial site.

The idea found favor among Chamber officials and county school leaders. Schools in some parts of the state receive funds from inventory taxes, which are handled differently in foreign trade zones.

"Our schools do not receive income in this county from income or inventory-based taxes," county superintendent Harold Shafer said. "We would be supportive."

"What we’re looking at are jobs," he said.

People are moving away and if the county can help them stay by attracting high-paying job providers that would use such a zone, the schools can only improve from the increase economy, Shafer said.

Chamber president Richard Slack called a foreign trade zone a "big drawing card" for the area.

Rickenbacker would market the site, help with administrative duties to the feds and the economy is going global, Slack said.

"There are so many advantages."