Expanded Foreign Trade Zone Benefits Natrona County Businesses
Let's say you make bicycles locally, and you use frames imported from Canada.
And let's say the law requires you to pay a 5 percent duty (or tax) on those frames except in foreign trade zones such as the one at the Casper-Natrona County Airport -- the only airport in Wyoming with a customs office.
If your bicycle-making business is in the foreign trade zone, you can import the frame and assemble the bicycle but you don't have to pay that 5 percent to Canada until you sell it in the United States.
If you sell it in Canada, Mexico or some other country, you don't pay the duty because the frame, legally speaking, was never in the United States because it was only in the foreign trade zone.
If you're not in the foreign trade zone, you have a problem.
The only way to take advantage of the duty-free privilege would be to locate in either the 31-year-old foreign trade zone (FTZ 157) of 492 acres on the airport property or in the 984 acres at the Casper Logistics Hub to the northeast, airport manager Glenn Januska said.
The problem was solved last week.
The U.S. Foreign-Trade Zones Board approved the airport's application to reorganize FTZ 157 under the "Alternative Site Framework" (ASF) regulation, Januska said.
"We’re thrilled to finally get approval after having submitted our application over one-and-a-half years ago," he said. The airport paid $3,000 for the consultant who worked on the application, he added.
"Expansion under the ASF will not only benefit businesses currently located and operating in Natrona County, but it becomes a more powerful tool in the economic toolbox for Natrona County and the State of Wyoming for business attraction and retention," Januska said.
Now, FTZ 157 covers nearly all Natrona County except for its western and northern edges because of a time and distance requirement from the customs office, he said. "So since the customs operation has to be at the airport, they don't want to have it so the customs agent has to drive five hours from the customs facility to do some paperwork in a location then drive back."
The distance as the crow flies is 60 miles and the driving time is 90 minutes one way, he said. "That's why our foreign trade zone can't include Cody, for example."
But it includes Casper and the other municipalities, he said. "So the bicycle manufacturer happens to be located in downtown Casper, as an example, doesn't have to have their bicycle manufacturing down out at the airport anymore."
The Alternative Site Framework also will offer applications for companies without a fee, approved within 30 to 45 days, which is faster and cheaper than under the traditional system that took two to four months and cost between $4,000 and $6,000, Januska said.
FTZ 157 hasn't had the intended success of attracting manufacturing to the airport or the Casper Logistics Hub, he said.
With the Alternative Site Framework, the airport, and local and state economic development organizations now need to find several businesses that would be willing to take advantage of it to lure more businesses to the area, Januska said.
The area within the heavy black square is the Alternative Site Framework for the Foreign Trade Zone based at the customs office of the Casper-Natrona County International Airport.