Foreign trade zone could be catalyst for growth

Rylan Squirrell
Rylan Squirrell

A foreign trade zone could serve as a long-awaited catalyst that promotes economic growth in the Grand Valley.

A FTZ is essentially an area that’s supervised by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), but remains out of its jurisdiction in allowing the movement of foreign goods through the zone without paying duties or taxes until they reach domestic consumption.

By one estimate, 24 businesses in Mesa County could benefit from an FTZ, including businesses involved in everything from manufacturing and distribution to chemical and pharmaceutical development.

Many automotive factories around the United States include FTZs, enabling companies to pay duties on the completed cars instead of the hundreds of parts imported from overseas. That saves money while creating domestic jobs.

Given comparatively high labor costs and duties, it’s not feasible for some companies to operate factories in the United States. FTZs make it feasible for many domestic companies to compete in the market.

Fruita City Manager Michael Bennett said outdoor equipment manufacturers in Mesa County that make everything from bicycles to skis to ski lifts require imported products, and a FTZ could lower their costs.

Not only would existing businesses in the area be able to take advantage of a FTZ, but a zone also could encourage new companies large and small to consider relocating their operations and in turn create hundreds of new jobs.

Kristi Pollard, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, and Steve Jozefcyzk, business development manager for GJEP, said companies from Denver and all over the U.S. could realize savings from an FTZ by moving their operations to the Grand Valley

With the Outdoor Retailer trade show being moved to Denver next year, there’ll be an opportunity for representatives from Grand Valley to reach out to companies and manufacturers.

The City of Grand Junction is spearheading the process of establishing an FTZ. That process includes setting up a CBP office at the Grand Junction Regional Airport.  A CPB office also would enable the airport to accommodate international flights. While there might not be a demand for commercial service, the airport could handle private international flights for passengers bound for Aspen, Telluride and other ski resorts.

The application to establish a FTZ is essentially complete and local officials, including Grand Junction Mayor Rick Taggart, expect that application to be submitted by the end of the year. The application process could take 12 to 18 months, however. That means a FTZ might not open in the Grand Valley until 2019.

While establishing a foreign trade zone in the Grand Valley could require a lot of time and money, a FTZ could pay for itself over the long run. That includes the potential role of a FTZ as a catalyst in promoting economic growth in the area.