Foreign trade zone status for Brunswick seen as economic boost for former Navy base

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BRUNSWICK — The town has been deemed a foreign trade zone by the U.S. Department of Commerce Foreign-Trade Zone Board, according to members of Maine’s congressional delegation.

The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which is overseeing the conversion of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station to a civilian facility, applied for the status in 2010. The concept was supported by all four members of Maine’s congressional delegation.

Foreign trade zones are ports of entry to the United States where goods from overseas can arrive duty-free to be processed or incorporated in products before being sold in the U.S market. The concept allows overseas producers to better compete with domestic industries, though import fees and taxes are paid on the material once it leaves the foreign trade zone.

In Brunswick, it will allow businesses at Brunswick Landing – the former air station – to enjoy lower prices for goods and materials until they leave the foreign trade zone.

In Maine, Bangor, Madawaska, Belfast and Portland are already designated foreign trade zones.

In a joint statement released Tuesday morning, U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both R-Maine, and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud, both D-Maine, said the new designation indicates that the Foreign-Trade Zones Board recognizes the “breadth and depth” of the economic opportunities available at Brunswick Landing and in the Mid-Coast region.

“When Brunswick Naval Air Station was closed as a result of the ill-conceived 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process, we pledged that no stone would be left unturned in support of the Brunswick-Topsham region’s economic recovery,” the statement said. “The new designation is a critical tool for the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority in attracting additional business opportunities and is a clear step in the right direction.”

In a July 2010 letter of support from the delegation, they argued that the designation would be attractive to businesses seeking to locate on the former Navy base, particularly those in the aviation manufacturing and remanufacturing, composite technologies and alternative energy product manufacturing, which are industries being targeted by the MRRA.