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ABQ promotes its trade zone advantages

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque is working to position itself as a destination for overseas companies looking to relocate operations back to North America in the wake of supply chain challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Randy Trask

The city this month unveiled a new website – www.abqftz.com – and marketing campaign aimed at answering questions about its foreign trade zone, which provides significant cost savings to users, allowing them to avoid or defer paying import duties on certain goods, among other benefits.

Randy Trask, president of the New Mexico Trade Alliance, said the goal is to educate business owners in Albuquerque and around the country about it.

“We’ve got what we need, the most important thing is gonna be: how do we get the word out?” Trask said.

Synthia Jaramillo

Synthia Jaramillo, director of economic development for the city, added that the website is part of a larger strategy to attract more industries with overseas operations to Albuquerque, helping to reduce job losses here tied to the pandemic.

Albuquerque’s foreign trade zone, one of two in New Mexico that operate under the federal program, was approved in 1984. Until recently, however, Trask said the zone was limited to companies that operate within the Albuquerque International Sunport’s footprint, which acted as a deterrent for some companies.

Four years ago, the trade zone was tweaked to allow companies to use it anywhere in Bernalillo and Valencia counties, among other locations, he said.

Still, Trask said just one company, The Urenco Group, has been using it. Another company, New Mexico Transloading, recently received approval to operate in it after a lengthy application process.

Brian Connell, who handles business development for the transportation company, said the FTZ creates significant cost savings for his customer companies.

Trask conceded there has been a lot of confusion about the trade zone and difficulty getting the word out that it exists.

Properly leveraged, the FTZ can be key in attracting companies here that are looking to move operations into North America.

During an Economic Forum of Albuquerque webinar on Wednesday, keynote speaker Dale Dekker argued that the pandemic may prompt American companies to consider moving operations in Asia and elsewhere closer to home, either to the U.S. or Mexico.

While Jaramillo said Albuquerque has plenty of assets, including proximity to Mexico and large American markets, it must boost its international recognition.

“While we believe that ABQ is poised for investment from foreign operations, we also understand it’s going to take a very robust strategy,” Jaramillo said.

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