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Foreign-trade zones reviving at Columbia Airport

By Chuck Crumbo
Published July 8, 2011

After years of lying dormant, the foreign-trade zone program at Columbia Metropolitan Airport is being revived.

The airport has ramped up efforts to promote the duty-free trading area as part of a recruiting pitch to businesses looking to locate in the Midlands.

And in May, the S.C. Legislature passed a law expanding the zone’s reach beyond Lexington and Richland counties.

“We have not been really active with it,” Dan Mann, airport executive director, said of the local foreign-trade zone. “There are a lot of businesses out there that could use it, but they haven’t asked and we haven’t found them.”

Fourteen counties in the state’s midsection have been added to what’s officially called Foreign Trade Zone 127. The legislation authorizes the airport commission to seek approval from U.S. Customs so it may grant permits for the creation of “subzones” in Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun, Clarendon, Edgefield, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lee, McCormick, Newberry, Saluda, and Sumter counties.

Foreign-trade zones offer substantial savings for the companies using them by reducing, deferring and eliminating tariff payments, said Chuck Henderson, airport deputy director. A foreign-trade zone is a duty-free, quota-free, secure area in a customs port of entry. Legally, it is considered to be outside of U.S. Customs territory.

Foreign and domestic goods can be brought into a zone without formal customs entry for assembly, manufacture, display, storage, destruction or other processing, Henderson added. “Duty payments are not required until the merchandise leaves the zone for domestic consumption,” he said.

If the merchandise is exported, no duty payments are made.

The present Midlands trade zone consists of two buildings on a 108-acre tract within the airport complex at S.C. Highway 302 and the John Hardee Expressway.

One building has 40,000 square feet and contains a multitenant warehouse and offices. The other has 52,000 square feet and space for multiple tenants.

About 60% of the space in the two buildings is occupied, but none of the tenants participates in the foreign-trade zone program, Henderson said.

Read more in the July 11 issue of the Columbia Regional Business Report.

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