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WEST MEMPHIS, AR-The granting of Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) status to 340 acres of prime industrial land in this Memphis suburb paves the way for Atlanta-based IDI to begin development of the planned Interstate Commerce Center. It is the fourth such zone in the region, and Kurt Nelson, senior vice president and regional development officer in IDI’s Memphis office, says the city’s eagerness to campaign for the zone was a major factor in the developer’s decision to acquire the site.

“Not only will IDI provide tenants the Class-A space that we’re known for in the industry, [but] we will also be able to offer them FTZ benefits that reduce the cost of doing business,” he remarks. FTZs save companies money by eliminating customs duties, government excise taxes and import quotas. for products or components shipped into the zone. Businesses assemble the components in the duty-free zones, then ship out completed products. There are also no duties on completed products that are intended for export.

Located less than a mile from interstates 40 and 55 and between the Union Pacific and BNSF railroad lines, the IDI project is slated to have eight buildings totaling 5.2 million-sf of warehouse and distribution space when completed in about 10 years. It will offer flexible build-to-suit and inventory space options in buildings from 311,000 sf to 1.2 million sf. The park has one pad-ready site of 453,600 sf, which can be expanded to accommodate a facility of up to 900,000 sf.

In general, West Memphis takes an aggressive stance toward attracting new industrial development, says Nelson, pointing out that tax and utility rates are significantly lower than adjacent counties in both Arkansas and Tennessee. Land costs are also lower than across the Mississippi River in Memphis, he adds. Last year the city launched a full-scale campaign, “Turn to West Memphis, Arkansas,” to lure logistics and distribution developers and businesses. Conceived by the city’s director of economic development Ward Wimbish, the effort focuses on direct mailings to industrial site consultants and executives that underscore both local government programs to reduce business costs and the city’s strategic location.

According to Wimbish, the segments of I-40 and I-55 that run through West Memphis have more truck traffic than anywhere else in the nation apart from the area around the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Both roadways will link to the planned Interstate 69, the so-called NAFTA Highway, which will run through Memphis. Wimbish says the NAFTA Highway and Union Pacific links are particularly relevant to the FTZ status because the former will encourage distribution of products from Mexico and Canada, while the latter provides direct transport of imports from the Southern California ports. “We want the world to know we have a Foreign Trade Zone, rail service bringing in imports from the West Coast, low-priced and available property and low taxes,” he says.

West Memphis is home to a number of large logistics companies, including Family Dollar, FedEx Freight and Skil-Bosch. Wimbish and other city officials expect the IDI development, along with the decision by the JM Smucker Co. to move its tornado-ravaged distribution operation from Memphis to West Memphis, will entice more companies to consider the city’s low taxes and rail, port and interstate access when expanding their logistics operations. “This is the last piece we need to make West Memphis a player in the international logistics world,” says Wimbish.

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