BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – An area economic development official is set to take a spot on the board for the Mid-America Port Commission on Tuesday.
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Lee County Board of Supervisors, the board will vote on naming Joe Steil, the CEO of the Lee County Economic Development Group, to the Mid-America Port Commission.
The commission is a tri-state compact that works to position Illinois, Iowa and Missouri in strong positions with national and international companies looking to expand or locate in the area.
Steil said positions on the board rotate through a six-county Iowa coalition including Lee, Des Moines, Henry, Jefferson, Van Buren and Wapello counties. Dan Weidemeier, a representative on the Southeast Iowa Regional Airport Authority is another Iowa representative on the tri-state group.
According the Mid-America Port Commission’s website, the commission is governed by a nine-person board with three commissioners from each state. Two commissioners from each state are appointed by the county board chairs from their respective state and the other is appointed by the Governor of their state. Illinois Commissioners are appointed from the Mid-America Intermodal Authority Port District. Commissioners are allowed to serve two – six year terms.
The port was established in 1999 to be a catalyst for economic growth in the tri-states, the commission is focused on helping area businesses compete globally, create short & long-term high-paying jobs, and help attract new businesses and industries to the region.
Steil said Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs) can be an important opportunity in the port’s work in the future.
“What I’m aspiring for is to leverage economic development opportunities that can be of benefit to our manufacturers,” Steil said. “A Foreign Trade Zone is one tool that can really benefit some of our manufacturing entities throughout the tri-state area.”
He said the FTZs can be very attractive for potential new companies as well as for current manufacturers.
“Obviously I’m very focused on what is good for Iowa. Wherever we can reduce or not be charged double on duties would be terrific,” Steil said. “Exporting finished products and goods that are imported and kept on the FTZ property can be exported without customs duties. There are advantages called Inverted custom duties, where you pay a duty, but there are two types of duties in play and you only pay whichever is lower. So financially it’s a benefit to the company as well.”
He said other FTZ benefits could include duties that can be eliminated on waste or scrap as an acceptable part of the manufacturing process, as well as zone-to-zone duty elimination for goods that are transferred to another FTZ.
Steil said with the approval of the Lee County Board of Supervisors, he would begin his term on the board and begin doing the diligence to hit the ground running.