Bibb, Monroe, Twiggs get foreign-trade zone status

Bibb and two other midstate counties have gained “foreign-trade zone” status, a move that officials say could help attract new industry and help some existing ones expand.

“It’s a good lure for us to attract assemblers or manufacturers where they ship parts in from overseas and do the assembling or manufacturing here,” said Pat Topping, senior vice president of the Macon Economic Development Commission.

The U.S. Foreign-Trade Zone Board recently approved an expansion of the Georgia Foreign-Trade Zone to include Bibb, Monroe and Twiggs counties. Before that, foreign-trade zones in Georgia were limited to areas near Atlanta and the Port of Savannah, Topping said.

Status means companies that import products and parts for assembly here in the U.S. might be able to save on duties and tariffs. Each county has so many acres that can be designated as a foreign-trade zone. In Bibb County, for instance, a maximum of 414 acres could be used, Topping said.

“It can be a small portion of a facility or it can be a whole site,” he said.

According to the U.S. Foreign-Trade Zone, a foreign-trade zone is a designated site licensed by the Foreign-Trade Zones Board “at which special customs procedures may be used.”

Items that are re-exported are duty-free. Duty payment is deferred on items sold in the U.S. market, which offsets customs advantages available to overseas producers who compete with producers in the United States. Formal customs entry procedures also are streamlined.

“We’re a great location for a product to come in the Port of Savannah and be assembled here in Macon, then go out to other parts of the country,” Topping said. “It’s a win-win — a win for existing industries and also a win for us recruiting new industries.”

Topping said officials already are working with an existing company, Excess Inc., about using the foreign-trade zone to benefit its warehousing and distribution facility here.

Georgia Foreign-Trade Zone Inc. is a private, nonprofit organization responsible for oversight of Foreign Trade Zone #26, which originates from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

“We’re excited to receive the green light to extend our program to Middle Georgia and allow more communities throughout the state to participate in this advantageous program,” said Julie Brown, CEO and president of Georgia Foreign-Trade Zone.

To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.