Area businesses interested in starting or enhancing international trade activities can now apply to be included in a soon-to-be designated Foreign Trade Zone in coastal North Carolina.
In April 2014 local officials John Hayes and state Rep. Rick Catlin (R-New Hanover) announced their push to create a foreign trade zone (FTZ) in eastern North Carolina.
A successful outcome is now in sight, according to Laura Holt-Kabel, Catlin’s legislative assistant.
The N.C. Department of Transportation has submitted an application for the proposed FTZ 214, encompassing 22 eastern North Carolina counties, to the U.S. Foreign Trade Zone Board, an entity within the U.S. Department of Commerce, Holt-Kabel said Tuesday.
Under the proposal, NCDOT would be responsible for general oversight of FTZ 214 and will help recruit to the zone businesses interested in export or import business, she said. Other state resources will be available to help existing and potential businesses within the zone to ramp up these activities.
The FTZ application has been received by the FTZ board and notice sent to the Federal Register, Holt-Kabel said.
“It’s a very long process” – typically about 10 months – for the application to gain approval from the Department of Commerce, she said, but added that her recent conversation with a Commerce official indicated that NCDOT’s application could be processed more quickly.
The application is for the zone to be an alternate site format, which means it consists of an entire region, rather than the traditional FTZ model, which is site-specific. The Port of Wilmington, for instance, is a traditional FTZ, so all qualifying activity must take place on its property.
The new alternate site format enables any business within the 22 county region to create a trade zone around its site and enjoy FTZ benefits, Hayes said this week. Those benefits include the ability to defer, reduce or even eliminate customs duties on products admitted to the zone, save on federal and state taxes and ability to transfer goods between zones and dispose of damaged or substandard goods without paying duties.
Hayes, the executive director of the N.C. Foreign Trade Promotion Council, has worked closely with Catlin to develop the FTZ. He is encouraging area businesses to go ahead and apply now to be part of FTZ 214 – an application process he said is quick and easy. More information about the benefits and application is available on the Foreign Trade Promotion Council website
The council and University of North Carolina Wilmington will present a conference about FTZ benefits Oct. 12-13 to bring attention to the trade zone and provide more information about resources for interested businesses, Hayes said. The Japanese ambassador to the United States is scheduled to attend as part of the council's efforts to entice more international businesses to locate to the region.
“This is phenomenal,” Hayes said of the potential an ASF FTZ holds for the region. He said that New Hanover County has indicated it will become involved, and the council is approaching the city of Wilmington and will continue to enlist the involvement of all counties and major municipalities within the zone boundaries. The FTZ is intended to eventually work with businesses and entities throughout the state, he added.