Cochise County is hopeful free-trade zone lures businesses

Status helps county compete with similar districts, officials say
2013-06-09T00:00:00Z Cochise County is hopeful free-trade zone lures businessesGabriela Rico Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 09, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Most of Cochise County is now a foreign-trade zone, creating a strong tool for recruiting business to the region.

The Sierra Vista Economic Development Foundation worked with various government entities and business leaders to secure the designation, which allows businesses to defer or avoid payment of duties or taxes.

Some manufacturers of unmanned aircraft already have expressed interest in setting up shop because of the free-trade zone and the airspace, officials said.

"It becomes an attraction tool for us - a huge selling point," said Mignonne Hollis, the foundation's executive director. "We are going after that industry."

She said the impact is not solely for Cochise County, but makes Arizona attractive to businesses because foreign-trade zones also exist in Nogales, Yuma, Tucson and the Phoenix area.

Logistically, these regions work together, Hollis said.

There is not a distinct industrial area in Sierra Vista or Douglas, so having a regional designation offers incoming businesses a chance to set up where they like, she said.

"We become a magnet site," Hollis said. "Operations are sprinkled everywhere."

The foreign-trade zone encompasses the ports of entry in Douglas and Naco.

"Having the foreign-trade zone is an essential tool for recruiting companies to expand and create new jobs in our city," said Douglas Mayor Danny Ortega Jr. "This designation enhances our competitiveness and puts us on a level footing with other regions of the state and the nation."

Among the benefits for companies operating in a free-trade zone is a reduction in tariffs, minimized processing fees, expedited transport of goods from the ports of entry and as much as an 80 percent reduction in property taxes.

"This is all good news," said Ákos Kovach, economic development planner for the Southeastern Arizona Government Organization. "The FTZ designation here in Arizona is possibly one of the best in the country because of our logistics capability."

Arizona is enviably located near the California, Nevada and Texas markets and the ports of entry from Mexico where manufacturing is booming, Kovach said.

There are seven free-trade zones in Pima County, said Michael Guymon, vice president of regional development for Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities.

The Port of Tucson and the Target Fulfillment Center on Tucson's southeast side are the only active sites. The other five sites are inactive because the tenant who had applied for the free-trade zone no longer operates there, Guymon said.

Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at grico@azstarnet.com or 573-4232.

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