In its most recent report on the impact of free trade zones across the U.S., the National Association of Foreign Trade Zones has classified Puerto Rico’s three facilities among the top 15 in the nation.
Puerto Rico has three free trade zones: Zone #61 administered by Puerto Rico Trade, Zone #7 managed by the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company and Zone #163 in Ponce administered by Codezol. They generate exports of more than $1.26 billion, 11,126 jobs, 102 companies and 16 active subzones.
“This ranking among the top 15 areas of the United States into four categories as highlighted in the report demonstrates Puerto Rico’s economic development ability considering the size of the states, their economies and the fact that many of them have more than three free zones,” said Economic Development and Commerce Secretary José A. Pérez-Riera.
Foreign-trade zones were created to provide special U.S. Customs and Border Protection procedures to U.S. firms engaged in international trade-related activities. The combined value of merchandise shipments into U.S. foreign-trade zones (both GPZs and subzones) amounted to $456 billion in fiscal 2009. This amount of business activity, which was measured in dollars, represented a 39 percent decrease over the $747 billion in zone receipts reported by the NAFTZ for fiscal 2008, according to the report.
In the category of goods received, Puerto Rico ranks 12 with $10.1 billion, surpassed by Texas, Louisiana, California, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Mississippi and South Carolina. Meanwhile, in the category of exported merchandise, Puerto Rico ranked eighth with $1.26 billion and is only surpassed by Texas, South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, California, Ohio and Florida.
In the category of jobs created in the free trade zones, the island is ranked 12th with 11,126 employees. Finally, in the category of number of companies active in the island’s FTZ management areas, Puero Rico took the eighth position with 102 companies, behind only Texas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Ohio, New York and South Carolina .
The report shows that the FTZ managed by Pridco was the most important on the island in terms of commercial activity, with some $7.8 billion in annual merchandise volume. Exports in that zone exceeded $1.1 billion, and it generated 7,820 jobs. It was the zone with the highest number of subzones, at 11 of the 16 in Puerto Rico.
Aguadilla airport en route to becoming FTZ
Perez Riera also announced that the first phase of what will be the Strategic Development Project for the Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla is also underway, which will turn it into the first airport in Puerto Rico with an FTZ designation. The application to the FTZ Board was submitted last week.
“With the designation of the Aguadilla Airport as an FTZ, the Government of Puerto Rico adopts one of the most aggressive economic development tools available for a specific area,” Pérez-Riera said. “Similarly, this project aims to develop and position the Aguadilla airport as a world-class cargo hub in the Caribbean.”
There are 265 airports in the U.S. mainland with the FTZ designation, joining Florida, New York, Texas, Washington and California, which have the highest number of FTZs.
The designation “will stimulate economic development in the region and generate to a large extent, a variety of economic activity that is estimated will create hundreds of direct and indirect jobs, which include high-paying skilled jobs,” he said, of the initiative under development through FTZ 61 managed by Puerto Rico Trade.