Foreign Trade Zone Expands Reach; A Possible Multicounty Zone May Extend as Far as Lake City

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID BAUERLEIN

Jacksonville's foreign trade zone - where businesses can get relief from custom duties on cargo shipped into the United States from abroad - could stretch as far inland as Columbia County.

The Jacksonville Port Authority administers the federally-created foreign trade zone and is in the process of applying for a multicounty zone that would give businesses fast-track consideration throughout the region.

Clay, Baker, Nassau and Columbia counties have all told JaxPort they want to be in the enlarged zone. The Port Authority is also in talks with St. Johns County.

Columbia County's interest stems from a planned "inland port" near Lake City Airport. The state has designated the 500-acre tract as a catalyst site for rural economic development. An inland port is a place that's engaged in the global supply chain but is located away from the coast.

Columbia County's advantages are the junction of Interstate 10 and Interstate 75, rail access from CSX, and being about 60 miles from Jacksonville's port, said Jim Poole, executive director of the Columbia County Industrial Development Authority.

"We just feel we have some natural ties to the Jacksonville region," he said Monday.

He said being in the regional foreign trade zone would help attract businesses to the inland port.

"We see it as an extra tool, not necessarily the only tool we have to work with," he said.

Usually, goods imported to the United States trigger duties for customers when they arrive in the country. But if the goods go to a distribution center or manufacturing plant in a foreign trade zone, the duty is either eliminated or deferred. …