Progress continues on Halifax County Industrial Development Authority’s efforts to boost economic development in the county by establishing a foreign trade zone in the county, and progress also is being made in the EPA Brownfield Program.
Those two items were topics of updates at the joint meeting between Halifax County Board of Supervisors and the town councils of South Boston and Halifax on Monday.
Applying to become part of a foreign trade zone is the county IDA’s latest effort to boost economic development in the county by adding another incentive for current businesses and industries as well as for potential prospects eyeing the county.
In a meeting with the IDA last year, Renee Boyette, administration and member services director of the Research Triangle Area Foreign Trade Zone, had explained that a foreign trade zone is a secured site authorized by the federal government, considered to be outside the customs territory of the United States, for duty purposes, although they are still under U. S. Customs supervision and control.
One benefit of becoming a foreign trade zone member is so the customs duty on imported products or components will be determined when the material leaves the zone.
Automotive and related industries, pharmaceutical companies and oil industries are prime candidates for FTZ’s, Boyette said on Monday.
By using a foreign trade zone, a company can gain a competitive edge over foreign-based competitors through the reduction of certain operational costs incurred when conducting international business, Boyette said.
The IDA will pay the $1,000 application fee required for the county to become part of the Research Triangle Area Foreign Trade Zone that is comprised of Chatham, Durham, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Orange, Wake, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Person, Sampson, Vance, Warren and Wilson counties in North Carolina.
IDA Executive Director Matt Leonard said the county has to officially say “yes” to be part of the application the IDA wants to submit in May.
Boyette, in answering a question posed by ED-6 Supervisor Stanley Brandon, said she could not speculate on the effect that recent trade tariffs announced by the Trump administration would have on free trade zones.
“I don’t see foreign trade zones as going away,” said Boyette.
Tom White, a board member of the foreign trade zone, agreed, saying that free trade zones will still have “an operationally competitive advantage.”
County businesses or industries may benefit if they import and/or export products or components and assembles, exhibits, cleans, manipulates, manufactures, mixes, processes, relabels, repackages, repairs, salvages, samples, stores, tests, displays and or destroys them, Boyette said in her earlier presentation to the county IDA.
In other words, she said foreign trade zones help U. S. businesses compete in the global economy by leveling the global playing field with duty exemptions, duty deferrals, inverted tariffs and logistical or other benefits.
Brownfield program update
Lori Kroll, community relations specialist, and Sri Nathella, environmental program manager for Draper Aden Associates, updated the joint bodies on the progress of the brownfield assessment program in Halifax County.
The Halifax County IDA was awarded $590,000 by the EPA last June for brownfield site revitalization, one of 172 communities across the country to receive funding.
The grant funding earmarks $354,000 for hazardous substances mitigation and $236,000 for mitigation of petroleum impacts, and the program expires in September 2020.
Kroll said Monday that funding can be used for site prioritization, community outreach, remediation planning and redevelopment planning, but she added EPA expects most of the funds earmarked for environment site assessments.
A brownfield is described as real property with possibilities for expansion, redevelopment or reuse with a perceived presence of hazardous substances, pollutants, contaminants or petroleum products.
The first phase of a brownfield project involves inspection of a property and surrounding areas, interviews with property owners, operators and occupants, and the second phase involves further assessments including soil and groundwater sampling and analysis, geophysical surveys and an inspection and documentation of the site.
Phase one evaluations already are underway at the former Burlington Mills site in Halifax, former Halifax Elementary School ball fields in Halifax, the former JPS Mill site in South Boston and sites of former auto repair and service stations owned by the town of South Boston in Riverdale.
Additional sites under consideration include the former Puckett Auto dealer site in South Boston, the former roller mill in Halifax and the former Crowell Motor Company site in South Boston.
Kroll cited several examples of buildings transformed through use of monies through the brownfield program as transforming communities, including development of the Jackson Park Inn and Conference Center in Pulaski and the Princeton Community Center in Princeton, North Carolina.