Neosho industries could soon import and export items duty free, if the Neosho Area Business and Industrial Foundation's application to create a magnet site, a form of a foreign trade zone, is approved.

Gib Garrow, economic development director for the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce, said NABIFI's consultant, IMS Worldwide Inc., based out of Houston, Texas, is 70 percent finished with the application process to create a magnet site as part of the Southwest Missouri Foreign Trade Zone, based at the Springfield-Branson National airport.
The foreign trade zones, created by the federal government, are intended to serve as an economic incentive for international trade.

The zone legally exists outside the customs' area, meaning although the zone is located in the United States, the imported items are not subject to duties until they enter the U.S. market.

Meanwhile, exported items, or those imported and then exported out again, are never subject to duties.

Garrow said the Southwest Missouri Foreign Trade Zone was established several years ago, however, when Neosho tried to create a sub zone about 15 years ago, there was legislation at that time that prevented that action.

However, that legislation changed, and Neosho manufacturer Jarden got on board with the trade zone about two years ago, Garrow said, as part of the foreign trade zone's sub zone.

Garrow said the Missouri Department of Transportation has also applied to be in the zone.

"Now, one of the things in what Springfield's doing is allowing for what they call a magnet zone, that allows for an amount of acreage to be put into the Springfield foreign trade zone," Garrow said. "So as soon as we found out about that we engaged a consultant."

Garrow said NABIFI is paying for the consulting work to establish the local magnet site with private funds.
According to information on the Springfield-Branson National Airport's website, the zone stretches to 23 counties in Missouri, including Newton and McDonald counties.

Garrow said only six magnet sites can be created within that zone, and said he is not aware of any others in the works besides Neosho.

He said the existence of a magnet site in Neosho could mean two major benefits for the area and local industries.
"We certainly want to benefit those who are doing business and bringing product in and doing assembly and doing those type of things that are already here," Garrow said. "But it certainly makes it attractive for other exporters and importers to produce and assemble their product in the zone until that product goes back out into the U.S. commerce."

Garrow said the zone would stretch along Industrial Drive to Highway 59, run down Highway 59 to the Neosho airport and onto AA Highway up to Interstate 49. The zone would also run along Doniphan Drive to Highway D, then continue south and take in the existing landfill and the Kansas City Southern railway.

Garrow said the city's property at and around the Neosho airport would be included in the zone area, however, each individual property owner will have the option of joining the foreign trade zone or opting out.

Garrow said it comes at no cost to the property owners and requires no action on their part, other than opting in or out.

He said the foundation has created a list of all property owners within the boundaries and would soon be sending out letters to all property owners informing them of an upcoming public meeting to educate the public on the foreign trade zone.

Garrow said being located within a foreign trade zone will make property more marketable.

"If somebody comes along and you're setting along the highway or something, you have a piece of property that's in the zone, it makes it more attractive in the future," Garrow said. "Nobody's forced into it. Everybody's just given the opportunity if they would like to."

Garrow said the consultant should be submitting the paperwork within the next two months.

If approved, Garrow said the zone, paired with Neosho's location next to two interstates, Interstate 49 and Interstate 44, as well as the area's highways and railways, could be very attractive to industries.

"It could bring industry," Garrow said. "It has huge potential. When you put it with the transportation hub of highways, interstates and rail, then you have a very good situation."

On Tuesday evening, Neosho City Council members briefly discussed the foreign trade zone.

Councilman Charles Collinsworth and Mayor Richard Davidson said they had not been informed about the foundation's application.

City Manager Troy Royer, who was present at the economic development committee meeting last week in which Garrow presented the magnet zone plan, said city officials were not aware of the work to create the zone prior to that committee meeting.

Davidson said based on what he read about the zone in a report prepared for MoDOT in regards to entering the Southwest Missouri Foreign Trade Zone, Neosho's involvement could be a positive move.

"From what I read in the report it's an exciting thing," Davidson said. "It could be a good thing for Neosho."