Hill County commissioners support Foreign Trade Zone

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

September 1, 2022

The Hill County Commissioners Court voted to support the creation of a foreign trade zone (FTZ) in Hillsboro and approved a plan to place school resource officers in two local school districts at a meeting held Tuesday, August 23.

Hillsboro Community and Economic Development Director Art Mann and consultant William Methenitis of Ernst & Young spoke to the court regarding a request from Frontier Support Logistics to create the FTZ in Hillsboro’s industrial park. In the United States, FTZs are the domestic equivalents of what are internationally known as free trade zones.
Under federal law, FTZs are granted certain privileges concerning U.S. customs duties and excise taxes. The program is designed to lower the costs of international trade for companies and encourage employment and capital investment.

Goods brought into an FTZ are not subject to duties and excise taxes until they are sent to domestic markets. Products assembled or manufactured within an FTZ may be exported without paying these fees.

Within FTZs, company goods can be unloaded, manufactured, processed and re-exported without the intervention of U.S. customs authorities.

The local FTZ would be added to the Dallas-Fort Worth trade zone and would receive items, mostly by rail, from Port Houston and other ports.

The application process requires that local taxing entities submit letters of support for the project. Both the Hillsboro City Council and the Hill College Board of Regents confirmed their support this month, and the proposal will be before the Hillsboro Independent School District’s Board of Trustees at an upcoming meeting.

Approval could take approximately one year after the application process is initiated.

County Judge Justin Lewis said that he has not found any reason not to support the project, adding that the company will cover the cost. “I’ve been skeptical about this from the get-go because it sounds too good to be true,” he said. “But we’ve talked to multiple parties and I don’t see a downside.”

While the inventory stored in the FTZ is not taxable, the project would create a number of jobs and create additional property tax revenue for local entities.

Commissioners approved the submission of letters requesting that the Dallas-Fort Worth Foreign Trade Zone Authority include Hill County as a whole into its zone, along with a letter and resolution supporting the creation of the local FTZ.

Commissioners also approved interlocal cooperative agreements with Itasca and Covington school districts regarding the placement of a deputy serving as a school resource officer in each district.

Under the agreement, the districts will cover 80 percent of the salary, vehicle costs and other expenses to employ the deputy, and the sheriff’s office will cover 20 percent of the costs. During the summer, the deputies can continue serving the sheriff’s office on patrol duties.

An extension to the completion date outlined in Sun Valley Solar’s incentive agreement with the county was approved by the court. Due to supply chain delays, the company has requested an additional year to complete the project. The completion date in the Chapter 312 agreement will be extended to July 2023.

The court approved a request from the Hill County Sheriff’s Office to enter into a lease/purchase agreement for six 2022 Chevy Tahoes and trade in four of the department’s current Tahoes, and a lease/purchase agreement was also approved with John Deere for a motor grader in Precinct 1.

Commissioners voted to approve a cost-of-living increase for Hill County retirees. Lewis said that the county’s retirees have not received an increase in over 10 years, and due to related retiree expenses being lowered, there is money in the budget to fund the increase. Commissioners approved a four-percent increase and plan to continue efforts to take care of retirees in future budgets as costs rise.

In other action, the court approved a replat of the Riverside Acres addition south of HCR 2114 to allow property lines to be adjusted and approved a final plat for GOFWIAH Estates, located near HCRs 4307 and 4251.

The meeting wrapped up with a budget workshop as the county puts the finishing touches on the budget for the upcoming fiscal year before its adoption in September. A committee was created to work on the county’s payroll policy to streamline the pay scale for commissioners’ road and bridge employees. A plan is expected to be back before the court Tuesday, September 6.

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