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Forum to focus on foreign trade zones

April 09, 2001

Forum to focus on foreign trade zones



By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Business representatives, land owners and residents will have a chance to attend a discussion on the idea of creating a foreign trade zone in Washington County during a Wednesday forum.

Foreign trade zones are areas in which companies don't have to pay tariffs when importing products, said Joseph Trocino, a consultant working on the project. Foreign trade zones are treated by the U.S. Customs Service as if they were outside of the Customs territory of the United States.

The zones provide a way for companies to compete with foreign competitors, said Trocino of Trocino & Associates, of Leesburg, Va. Trocino is being paid by PenMar Development Corp., which is charged with developing the former Fort Ritchie Army Base for business use. PenMar is working to replace the 2,000 jobs lost when Fort Ritchie closed in September 1998.

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Only certain parts of the county, possibly undeveloped land and industrial parks, would be included in a county foreign trade zone, Tim Troxell, assistant director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said. Subzones could be created for companies that want to participate in the program but are outside the foreign trade zone, he said.

The sites and area in the county have not been officially determined, he said.

The public forum on foreign trade zone benefits will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Plaza Hotel's Cumberland Room.

At the forum, supporters of the proposal hope to find landowners and businesses interested in being in a county foreign trade zone, Troxell said. That way when the County Commissioners are later asked to endorse the idea, they can be shown that local companies and individuals want to participate, he said.

Legislation allowing such zones was created in 1934. There were seven zones initially but that number has grown to 250 in the United States and Puerto Rico. There are more than 3,500 firms in those zones.

There are three such zones in Maryland - one at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, one at the Port of Baltimore and a third in Prince George's County.

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