CONCORD — New Hampshire has received federal approval to expand foreign trade zone service areas in the state, allowing more businesses access to benefits that include lessening duties on imported goods.
Geno Marconi, director of the New Hampshire Port Authority, said the Federal Trade-Zone Board approved the state’s application to modify the boundaries and reorganize the coverage area.
“This is a big deal,” Marconi said Monday. “Up until now, we operated under what was called a traditional site framework. Under our grant of authority, we had very specific sites that were designated as Foreign Trade Zone sites.”
The service area around those sites — at the Pease International Tradeport, the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, the Market Street Marine Terminal and the Portsmouth Industrial Park — has been widened under the Alternate Site Framework application the state filed in January, Marconi said.
Federal officials adopted the alternate framework guidelines in 2009, allowing for expanding service area boundaries within 60 miles or 90 minutes driving time of a U.S. Customs port of entry rather than just within the designated FTZ areas.
The approval creates a new boundary that stretches East from the Vermont state line along Route 4, north on Interstate 93 along the Belknap and Grafton county line, to Route 25 east to the Maine state line.
“Basically what this means for the state and for companies interested in utilizing the benefits of the federal trade zone, anything south of that red line is included in our service area,” Marconi said. “This is something that can be used to retain businesses and jobs and attract new business and jobs.”
Under FTZ benefits, companies can defer, reduce or eliminate duties on imported items.
“This is another step toward our aggressive goal of enabling businesses in New Hampshire to find profit and success in the international marketplace,” Commissioner Taylor Caswell of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs said in a release announcing the approval on Monday.
Marconi said the move will also expedite the application processing time to around 30 days for companies interested in pursuing the benefits. Previously, the process could take more than a year, Marconi said.
“Once an application is submitted, activation can take place within 30 days or a little more, depending on the complexity of what they’re doing,” Marconi said.
Businesses that are unsure where they fall under restructured boundaries should contact the Division of Ports and Harbors in Portsmouth at (603) 436-8500.