NEW LONDON — The City of New London has received approval to expand its Foreign-Trade Zone to include all of New London County.
Foreign-Trade Zone #208, established in 1981 and comprising 138 acres around State Pier in New London, will expand as an Alternative Site Framework, which allows entire counties to be part of the service area under the jurisdiction of the foreign-trade zone.
The new framework will allow the 21 towns and two tribal nations — the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe — to join the zone.
The city submitted its application in July and the Foreign-Trade Zone Board of the U.S. Department of Commerce granted the approval on Dec. 20.
In the application, the New London Foreign-Trade Commission requested that the original zone around State Pier be designated as a magnet site, a type of site intended to attract and serve multiple operators in a specific location.
“By making it the magnet site, the application and approval process will be simplified when and if we get people interested and able to take advantage of this,” said Tom Bombria, community and economic development project coordinator for New London and the city liaison to the New London Foreign-Trade Commission.
Each Alternative Site Framework can have a maximum of six magnet sites. Typically a magnet site may offer infrastructure and amenities including port or airport facilities, warehouses and industrial parks.
For example, the development of offshore wind assembly at State Pier may offer opportunities to companies that assemble and manufacture associated parts and machinery.
“New London County in Connecticut is now the ‘service area’ for FTZ 208. This means that a company located anywhere in the county can work with the zone to have that company’s facility designated as an Foreign-Trade Zone ‘usage-driven site’ or ‘subzone’ through a quick and simple process,” a representative from the International Trade Administration Office of Public Affairs said in an email.
Usage-driven or subzone sites are specific by company and there is no limit on the number of company-specific usage-driven sites or subzones that can be approved, according to the representative’s email.
The Alternative Site Framework model, established in 2009, now includes a simplified process for providing a Foreign-Trade Zone designation to companies, officially known as “minor boundary modifications.” The process formerly required the authority of the Executive Secretary of the U.S. Foreign-Trade Zones Board, which is composed of members of the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments.
Foreign-trade zones offer import and export businesses the opportunity to operate under the supervision of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in enclosed sites where merchandise or raw materials can be stored or manufactured duty-free until they are exported elsewhere or imported into the U.S.
Once approved by the New London Foreign-Trade Zone Commission, a company is required to apply to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for approval to “activate” the Foreign-Trade Zone. Activation requirements include meeting security and inventory control standards for Foreign-Trade Zone operations.
Besides New London, Connecticut has Foreign-Trade Zones in Windsor Locks, New Haven and Bridgeport. The United States has 296 Foreign-Trade Zones.
Bombria said the Southeastern Enterprise Region, known as seCTer, will discuss how to promote the Alternative Site Framework at the next New London Foreign-Trade Zone Commission meeting, scheduled on January 19 at 6 p.m. as a zoom call.
“They want to help get the word out to the counties, to the other businesses,” said Bombria. “Hopefully we’ll get other people like the Chamber and the Southeastern COG to let their member communities know that this has happened. We’ve got to educate people about what the advantages are and somehow we’ve got to figure that out — we’ll talk about that at the next meeting.”