Foreign trade label may be good for Scotland

For a county always looking for innovative ways to attract industry, Mark Ward may have hit on a new avenue to do just that.

Ward, who serves as director of Scotland County’s Economic Development Corporation, has suggested that we look into a Foreign Trade Zone designation for the area.

Scotland is the only county from Wilmington to Charlotte without such a zone.

Ward went before the Scotland County commissioners this week seeking support for the idea. He said state Sen. Tom McInnis made the initial suggestion about the zone and it didn’t take much to make Ward a believer.

What the zone would do, according to Ward, is boost economic development by adding another incentive for current businesses and industries and prospects looking at us.

“It gives us another tool in our tool box,” he said.

And he appears to be right.

Ward has been asked on at least two occasions by industries considering Scotland County as a location whether the area was in an FTZ.

If approved, the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport industrial complex would gain the FTZ designation. Ward is expected to talk to the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport Commission next month to get its input.

Among prime FTZ candidates are automotive and related industries, pharmaceutical companies and oil industries.

A Foreign Trade Zone is a secured site authorized by the federal government, considered to be outside the customs territory of the United States, for duty purposes, although they are still under U. S. Customs supervision and control. By being in a zone, a company can gain a competitive edge over foreign-based competitors through the reduction of certain operational costs incurred when conducting international business.

In other words, foreign trade zones help U.S. businesses compete in the global economy by leveling the global playing field with duty exemptions, duty deferrals, inverted tariffs, logistical or other benefits.

There is no telling what effect the recent trade tariffs announced by the Trump administration would have on the zones. But currently the label will allow companies to have their merchandise inspected and shipped directly from Scotland County to international destinations without having to ship goods to Wilmington to be unpacked, inspected and repacked for shipment.

Sounds like a good deal if we can get it.