Business Leaders Hope to Expand the Sault Foreign Trade Zone through Chippewa Co.

In Chippewa County, business leaders are hoping to give some relief to manufacturers and are working to expand a longstanding foreign, or “free” trade zone.

“We want to make sure our manufacturers have the opportunities they need to be successful.”

Sault Economic Development Corporation Director Jeff Holt says we could be just months away from the foreign trade zone expanding outside of the Soo.

“We’re real excited we have the support of the county, the city, we have the support of the U.S. customs and Canadian customs,” Holt, said.

Within a foreign trade zone businesses are able to import a raw material like steel, manufacture with it, then export it and not face certain taxes.

On border towns like the Sault it could also help cut costs related to shipping.

“It allows to have a little more flexibility,” Holt, explained.

The existing zone was established in the early 70s and now they are largely maxed out of space. What’s available is mostly wetland area next to the St. Marys River.

With the new agreement they’d be able to establish that zone outside just a little sliver of Sault Ste. Marie and encompass Chippewa County in its entirety.

For a business like Superior Fabrication, south of the Sault in Kinross, it could mean saving a ton of money; Holt says it could even help bring more employers to the county.

“We are also hoping to attract new businesses in our community because it’s an opportunity to bring material in, value-add it and re-export it out of the foreign trade zone,” Holt, explained.

With most parties on board, he’s hopeful an expansion will be approved by 2019.