Entering its 36th year, the Miami Free Zone continues to promote itself as a wholesale marketplace and international business center.
Moreover, in contrast to more typical foreign trade zones in the US, it’s important for businesses to know the Miami Free Zone specializes in providing a turnkey FTZ solution where everything is set up – security controls, in-house expertise on compliance and documentation, to name a few services –, said Jorge Suarez, leasing and marketing manager.
“We’ve re-branded ourselves from a trade zone to an international trade facility,” he told Miami Today. At the zone, Mr. Suarez said, clients have access to trade resources and service providers as well as year-round international trade events.
Currently, the about 100 companies on the Miami Free Zone’s 47 acres at 2305 NW 107th Ave. are not only in the import/export business but also offer support services for the industry, including consultants and chambers of commerce.
In 2014, Mr. Suarez said, there were 60 leasing transactions for new companies, renewals and expansions. He described three expansions: Lennox International, the top cooling and heating company in the US and the largest tenant at the Miami Free Zone, renewed a long-term lease and expanded its footprint by 20%; a global cooling and heating company that Mr. Suarez said he wasn’t at liberty to name renewed a three-year lease and expanded by 30%; and Diamonds International, the largest duty-free retailer in the Caribbean, renewed a long-term lease and almost tripled its space.
In 2014, Mr. Suarez said, an estimated $1 billion in trade passed through Miami Free Zone. On average, 250 trucks pass through a day, plus 150 visitors. The top 10 trading partners, taken from the top, were the US, Switzerland, China, Colombia, Japan, France, Germany, Panama, Peru and the Dominican Republic.
Established in 1979, Miami Free Zone was the second foreign trade zone in Florida and the first in Miami-Dade. A number of companies have been tenants for the entire 35 years, Mr. Suarez said.
The purpose of a foreign trade zone is to lower the cost of doing business for US-based companies engaged in international trade. The federal government controls federal trade zones, which are based near sea and airports and allow merchandise to enter the country or to be held without paying Customs duties or other ad valorem taxes, offering US businesses a level playing field in competing with businesses abroad.
The US Foreign Trade Zones program was created during the Great Depression by the Foreign-Trade Zones Act of 1934 to expedite and encourage foreign commerce in the country. The original act was amended in 1950 to open foreign trade zones to manufacturing.
In 1980, Congress amended the act again so that products manufactured in the zones wouldn’t be assessed on US value-added (the net output after adding up all outputs and subtracting intermediate inputs), ensuring that the only tariffs a producer inside the zone selling to US customers would pay would be on the raw materials imported into the zone.
The first foreign trade zone opened in New York City in February 1937. Today, over 230 foreign trade zones operate across the country.