Waller County joins Port of Houston zone

By R. Hans Miller | Times Senior Reporter
Posted 5/13/20

Waller County announced May 4 that it has entered an interlocal agreement with the Port of Houston Commission which establishes a formal relationship between the port’s and Waller …

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Waller County joins Port of Houston zone

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Waller County announced May 4 that it has entered an interlocal agreement with the Port of Houston Commission which establishes a formal relationship between the port’s and Waller County’s economic development teams.

“We are excited about this new relationship with the Port of Houston,” said Waller County Judge Trey Duhon. “It will be an integral part of our ongoing economic development efforts to help us continue building a strong and diversified economic base.”

According to the announcement, the agreement sets up a foreign trade zone – commonly referred to as an FTZ – which the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website says allows otherwise prohibited or taxable merchandise to be moved into the area for storage, exhibition, assembly, manufacturing and processing. FTZs are usually located near major ports and provide an opportunity for inexpensive flow of parts that might otherwise be tariffed or charged duties on arrival and export, making it more affordable for companies to operate in FTZs.

Waller County Economic Development Partnership Executive Director Vince Yokom said the county does not have a projection of specific industries, but it anticipates that being in a foreign trade zone will attract manufacturing to the county. The county expects the agreement to bring jobs with those businesses and increase the county’s commercial tax base which can relieve the tax burden on residents, he said.

“As a rule, manufacturing jobs pay higher wages,” Yokom said.

The port and the county are hoping the agreement creates economic synergy, said Port of Houston officials.

“Waller County is a strong partner and it’s through interlocal agreements such as this one that together we can support our common mission of creating jobs and economic prosperity for the region,” said Port of Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther.

Yokom said that, while the port offers convenience for foreign companies, American companies also find benefits in locating operations within a free trade zone like the one the agreement pulls Waller into.

“In fact, a majority of the current FTZ users at the (Port of Houston) are U.S. companies,” Yokom said.

The agreement is falls under the alternative site framework rules for the U.S. International Trade Administration and allows the FTZ of the Port of Houston to be modified more easily in order to stimulate economic growth.

“The ASF interlocal agreement with the Port of Houston is the capstone of our Foreign Direct Investment program that we started back in 2019,” Yokom said. “Given the current COVID-19 issues, and the geopolitical ramifications, we think there will be even more opportunity to attract both international companies and US-based firms looking to re-shore operations.”

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