MOUNT VERNON — Area businesses that import and export will now have an opportunity to save on tariffs and duties, the Knox County Board of Commissioners said Monday after meeting with a representative of the Columbus Regional Airport Authority.
Katherine Mills, business development manager for Rickenbacher International Airport’s Foreign Trade Zone, met with the commissioners to gauge the county’s interest in joining the program. The program was established earlier this year by the Foreign Trade Zones Board in Washington, D.C.
“It doesn’t cost the county anything, but offers a way for companies to competitively do international business without paying high tariffs and duties,” said Commissioner Allen Stockberger.
The first Free-Trade Zones Act was passed in 1934 as part of the Roosevelt administration’s New Deal legislation. The earliest FTZs were set up in coastal cities; later, revised legislation allowed for airports across the country to become FTZ hubs as well, although the zones were restricted to a small number of select locations. With the new legislation, however, the zones are being expanded to a radius of 60 miles or a 90-minute drive from the hub.
According to Mills, an FTZ is a restricted-access location where stored merchandise is considered to be in international commerce for customs purposes. Foreign-origin merchandise can be stored, exhibited, repackaged, mixed, manipulated, used in a manufacturing process or transferred to another FTZ.
The FTZ allows users to defer, reduce or eliminate customs duties, avoid a duty charged on returned or scrapped merchandise, increase logistics flexibility, move merchandise directly to a factory or warehouse without a clearance delay, and file customs entrance paperwork weekly instead of with each shipping container.
The commissioners will be issuing a proclamation expressing support for the idea of joining FTZ 138. This will allow the Columbus Regional Airport Authority to submit businesses in Knox County to the FTZ board for approval within 30 days. The program does not cost the county anything. Fees will be paid by the companies that receive the benefit of using the FTZ.
Businesses who are interested in the program can contact Katherine D. Mills at the Columbus Airport Regional Authority in Columbus at (614) 409-3606.