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Foreign trade zone concept discusssed

April 11, 2001

Foreign trade zone concept discusssed



By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Low attendance at Wednesday's forum on a proposed foreign trade zone for Washington County doesn't mean the idea isn't drawing interest, said Joseph Trocino, a consultant working on the project.

It means those interested in the idea already know about it, said Trocino of Trocino & Associates, of Leesburg, Va.

He said he would meet individually with about 35 interested companies.

Ten people, most already involved in the project, attended Wednesday's forum at the Plaza Hotel.

Some business representatives had heard about the proposal at a recent Chamber of Commerce function and others know about it from a Greater Hagerstown Committee survey of local businesses, Trocino said.

Foreign trade zones are areas, sometimes noncontiguous, in which companies don't have to pay tariffs when importing products, he said.

Trocino predicted that Washington County's zone would encompass about 2,000 acres, including land in Hancock, the former Fort Ritchie property and at and near Hagerstown Regional Airport.

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Supporters will seek a resolution of support next Tuesday from the Washington County Commissioners and the Hagerstown City Council.

An application for the zone status will be filed in May, he said. It usually takes about a year for a foreign trade zone to be approved, Trocino said.

Anton T. Dahbura, corporate vice president of Hub Labels Inc., said his company would like to foreign trade zone concept because it would reduce the company's costs when importing equipment for later resale.

Trocino is being paid by PenMar Development Corp., which is charged with developing the former Fort Ritchie Army base for business use. PenMar was created by the state to replace the 2,000 jobs lost when Fort Ritchie closed in September 1998.

The zone would help draw businesses there, PenMar officials said.

"This is a powerful economic development incentive that will posture Washington County to effectively compete for corporations desiring property in a foreign trade zone," said Jim LaFleur, PenMar's executive director.

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