Pushing for expansion of Suffolk's trade zone

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A Melville company hopes a proposed expansion of international trade benefits in Suffolk County will make its warehouses too small.

International Warehouse Group has two buildings now with roughly 250,000 square feet of space. Jeffrey Heydt, chief executive, is closely watching a bid by Suffolk to persuade the federal government to approve an expansion of the county's foreign trade zone.

He hopes for a boost in imports that will lead to more hiring: "We plan on taking a third building," he said at an event Friday in support of the push.

Earlier this month Suffolk County applied to the U.S. Department of Commerce to reorganize its existing zone to make it easier for businesses to apply for breaks on tariffs. Companies would not have to pay import duties on products that are re-exported, and can pay reduced duties on products imported for domestic use.

If approved, those benefits would be expanded beyond the current zone, a 56-acre area at McArthur Airport in Islip, to most of the county. Currently two companies in Suffolk are in the program.

"This sector of our economy is growing and is ripe for expansion, but one of the things we need to do is reduce the obstacles," County Executive Steve Bellone said Friday at a news conference held at one of International Warehouse's facilities. "What we're trying to do in Suffolk County is to streamline the process."

The application process for a company seeking exemptions on re-exports can take more than nine months, according to the Commerce Department. If the county is approved to use an "alternative site framework," that application process would be cut to 30 days.

At the event Friday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said she planned to meet with Undersecretary for International Trade Francisco Sánchez to push for the expanded zone. "Other countries create incentive and support for their domestically based manufacturers," she said, "and so this is one of the programs that we create to give our U.S. companies an edge as well."

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