Foreign Trade Zone expansion receives support

A. Lee Graham

Fort Worth has joined Haltom City in supporting plans to strengthen Mercantile Center business park’s foreign trade appeal. Both municipalities have mailed letters of support at the request of Mercantile Partners LP, which owns the 1,300-acre parcel in north Fort Worth. The business park already offers 630 acres within Foreign Trade Zone 168, where Interstate 35W and Northeast Loop 820 meet north of downtown. Under the proposal, its boundaries would expand in all directions, notably Interstate 35 to the west and Loop 820 to the north. It would cover all 1,300 acres. The more land available for foreign trade zone status, the better, according to the property owner. That’s because tariff and tax savings afforded to companies operating on such property could persuade such firms to open operations in the area, according to Jay Chapa.

“They’re having more and more companies looking to expand and Mercantile only has a limited space covered by foreign trade zone status,” said Jay Chapa, the city’s housing and economic development director. “They’re competing against Alliance [Airport] and CentrePort [Business Park] and want to expand,” said Chapa, referring to nearby locations also offering companies the ability to keep goods in their zones without paying customs duties and other ad valorem taxes, the primary attraction of foreign trade zones. Companies operating within such zones pay no duty on imports until they leave the zone for a domestic destination. Duties also are waived on items brought into the zone and exported since the items never enter customs territory. Sweetening the deal are no state and local property tax levied on imported or domestic inventory held for export. The councilman representing the area supports the expansion concept.

“It would give them the ability to compete, not just with Alliance, but also with other areas,” said District 4 Councilman Danny Scarth. Interest from no specific company or companies prompted the expansion idea, Scarth and Chapa said. Rather, the idea came from a general desire to level the playing field and make Mercantile Center more competitive. But tax savings for companies operating within the zone would not affect Fort Worth taxpayers, Chapa emphasized. “The current area they are asking the expansion to occur in would have no negative impact on the city or its residents,” Chapa said. The expansion request now awaits action from the Foreign Trade Zones board, a division of the U.S. Commerce Department.

- FWBP Digital Partners -