Michiana economic development leaders promote ‘Foreign Trading Zone’

Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 6:20 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Local efforts to spread the wealth by spreading the word are underway.

It’s important news for importers.

Three and a half decades ago, the South Bend Airport established what’s called a Foreign Trade Zone. Today, that zone has just three operators.

There’s a feeling that many more companies could benefit from the tariff breaks and deferrals that the zone offers if they only knew about it.

Today brought renewed efforts to spread the word.

Economic development leaders and commercial real estate professionals from a six-county area got the 411 on the FTZ.

“If a company here in South Bend is importing products to manufacture something that they can bring those products into the Foreign Trade Zone duty free, manufacture with it, if they export products back outside the United States, that leaves with no duty ever,” explained Jeff Tafel, President of the National Association of Foreign Trade Zones. “If it stays in the United States and enters the U.S. commerce, then most of the time that is at a lower duty level than if the cost of importing all the different things separately, so it’s opportunities to reduce that cost of operation, and keep jobs here.”

The program was established by the federal government during the Great Depression to help keep jobs in the U.S.

“We know there’s a lot of manufacturing in our region, and a lot of components do come from outside the U.S., so there’s advantage to all this,” added South Bend Regional Airport Director Mike Daigle. “Today we’re having this education session. We’ve got representatives from, I think, all six counties and they’re here and they’re all going through this to learn more about this.”

While the airport owns and operates the South Bend Foreign Trade Zone, a company would not have to move to or near the airport grounds to take advantage of it. The FTZ territory includes a six-county area.