The Tyler Economic Development Council is working toward expanding its toolbox with the creation of a foreign trade zone in Smith County.

The nonprofit organization submitted its foreign trade zone application to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration in October, triggering a public comment period that ends Jan. 3. Comments may be submitted to the FTZ Board’s Executive Secretary and sent to Comments in response to input received are due by Jan. 18.

Foreign trade zones provide companies with certain tax benefits when they bring goods or materials into the country — components companies use to manufacture products, for instance — then ship it back out again. The foreign trade zone essentially makes it so the products shipping in and out are never actually in the country for tax reasons.

“If approved, the applicant would be able to serve sites throughout the service area based on companies’ needs for FTZ designation. The application indicates that the proposed service area is adjacent to the Shreveport- Bossier City Customs and Border Protection port of entry,” said information on the Federal Register, where notice of the application was published. “The application indicates a need for zone services within a portion of Smith County, Texas. Several firms have indicated an interest in using zone procedures for warehousing/distribution activities for a variety of products. Specific production approvals are not being sought at this time. Such requests would be made to the FTZ Board on a case-by-case basis.”

Scott Martinez, president and CEO of the Tyler Economic Development Council, updated Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce Officials about the application process on Tuesday. He said it should be completed in the first quarter of next year.

“Gregg County has had one of these for decades,” he said, adding his organization already has seen interest from local companies wanting to participate in the foreign trade zone.

In a “global economy,” a foreign trade zone is a good tool to have, Martinez said. The application process will likely see a final price tag of $25,000, including the cost of a consultant working with the economic development council. Martinez said that price tag is worth it considering the investment it could bring to area.


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