Many in the economic development community and real estate development field have heard much about how the Foreign-Trade Zone program attracts firms of all types to FTZ designated industrial parks and property. Many Foreign-Trade Zone projects have been started with the philosophy of “establish it, and they will come”. The reality is that for FTZ Grantees to receive the economic development benefits they desire, the right choices in many areas must be made. The Foreign-Trade Zone Corporation will guide Grantees and developers so that the best choices are made so that the FTZ project maximizes its potential by attracting prospective companies as well as providing an avenue to providing the maximum benefit to existing companies in the area. One choice that Grantees are faced with is whether or not to expand a Foreign-Trade Zone or reorganize it using the Alternative Site Framework (ASF).
In January 2009, the Foreign-Trade Zones Board adopted a FTZ Board staff proposal to make what it called the Alternative Site Framework (ASF) as a means of designating and managing general-purpose FTZ sites through reorganization. The ASF provides Foreign-Trade Zone Grantees with greater flexibility to meet specific requests for zone status by utilizing the minor boundary modification process. The theory of the ASF is that by more closely linking the amount of FTZ designated space to the amount of space activated with Customs and Border Protection, Zone users would have better and quicker access to benefits. When a FTZ Grantee evaluates whether or not to expand its FTZ project in order to improve the ease in which the Zone may be utilized by existing companies, as well as how it attracts new prospective companies, the Alternative Site Framework (ASF) should be considered. The ASF may be an appropriate option for certain Foreign-Trade Zone projects, but the decision of whether to adopt the new framework and what the configuration of the sites should be will require careful analysis and planning. Regardless of the choice to expand the FTZ project, the sites should be selected and the application should be drafted in such a manner as to receive swift approval, while maximizing benefit to those that locate in the Zone. Successful zone projects are generally the result of a plan developed and implemented by individuals that understand all aspects of the FTZ program.