by Melissa Lizotte

Bangor Daily News

LIMESTONE, Maine — As more industries show interest in locating at Limestone’s former Loring Air Force Base, officials want to make it easier for companies to trade across international borders.

If approved by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Loring Development Authority would designate the 3,800-acre Loring Commerce Center as a foreign trade zone.

A foreign trade zone allows any companies within that area to apply for free trade designation, eliminating fees that would come from importing materials for products assembled in the United States.

That means existing and future companies would not have to pay duty fees for items crossing international boundaries.

The designation could help Loring attract larger companies at a time when new investors want to bring back thousands of jobs that the region has lost in the past decade.

“This gives us another economic development tool for attracting industries that import products internationally,” said Steve Levesque, a consultant with SHL Enterprise Solutions in Greenville, who is working with Loring Development Authority.

Maine currently has foreign trade zones in Waterville, Bangor and Madawaska, according to International Trade Administration data. The Madawaska zone is inactive because the business that was utilizing its benefits — Evergreen Manufacturing — closed in 2016.

Limestone’s location near a Canadian port of entry makes Loring the ideal place for a foreign trade zone, said Wayne Coleman, president of C3 Associates, a consulting firm specializing in trade zone applications.

“It’s almost impossible for a company in Limestone now to drive to Bangor [to import materials],” Coleman said during a Loring Development Authority board meeting Wednesday. “But Limestone’s location is convenient.”

Loring Development Authority’s board of trustees has unanimously approved Loring’s application for the foreign trade zone, which includes letters of support from U.S. Sens.  Susan Collins and Angus King, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden and Maine Gov. Janet Mills.

The new trade designation would coincide with Loring Development Authority’s just-launched marketing campaign.

That campaign revamped Loring’s website and began outreach to companies within aerospace, transportation machinery repair, technology and aviation that could bring jobs and major employers back to the commerce center.