Inter-Tribal Trade - Jim Collard

CPN foreign-trade zone ready for long term contracts

Jim Collard

Jim Collard, director of planning and economic development with the Citizen Potawatomi Nation leads tour of Iron Horse industrial park to international visitors

By Shari Narine
Cando Writer

Jim Collard, director of planning and economic development with the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, in Oklahoma, is excited about the possibilities a foreign-trade zone offers for his tribe.

“It is a unique way for tribes to engage in trade and so many of the tribes have been international traders for millennium. So really, international trade hasn’t been a new thing for tribes, but really it hasn’t been in the fore-thinking for the last few generations and this is an opportunity to go back to that lineage,” said Collard, who has his doctorate in in political economy.

A company located within a specially designated foreign-trade zone (also known as a free-trade zone) can bring in raw product, transform that product to create something new, and then ship it out of the country with no tariffs attached. However, if the final product remains within the United States, the tariff is assessed on either the final product or all the combined parts, whichever is lower.

“It’s a huge cost savings,” said Collard.

That was only one incentive that spurred Collard to push for FTZ designation for the Iron Horse industrial park, which is located on Native American trust land in Oklahoma. The industrial park, which measures 400 acres and which can be expanded, runs along the Union Pacific rail line, which links it to the Port of Houston and makes it an ideal spot for companies.

“Just our distribution point is gigantic because we’re in the centre of the country essentially,” said Collard.

Now that the Iron Horse industrial park is site-ready, Collard has begun marketing it to other countries and industries.

“I really want to do business with Canada, our closest ally. I really want to do business with First Nations up there,” he said. “We’d be a wonderful distribution point for all First Nations products into the U.S.”

But Collard’s marketing plan stretches further than North America. He is also targeting France and the Commonwealth, “primarily close allies that work within the same judicial system” as the U.S. and Canada.

Iron Horse industrial park offers long term leases as high as three 25-year consecutive terms, which provide companies with stability and predictability. As well, the FTZ simplifies a usually complicated regulatory regimen.

“Foreign-trade zones have been around for 80 years so there’s no legal questions out there. There’s stability, speed and it’s easier to understand,” said Collard.

Attractive industries for CPN are renewable energy companies or companies that build equipment that is environmentally sustainable.

“We, as a tribe, of course, have a strong emphasis on environmental sustainability,” said Collard.

The FTZ also allows CPN to be both landlords and equity partners in companies, if the companies are interested.

“A foreign-trade zone gives us a unique identifier. There aren’t a whole lot of them and very few in Indian Country so that helps us stand apart from all the other industrial parks,” said Collard.

The potential is also there, he adds, for direct links between Iron Horse industrial park and any free-trade zones that may exist on First Nations in Canada.

“It would be simple. We could move trade fast that way. It would be slick,” said Collard.

And it would be one more way for First Nations and Tribes to generate their own income.

“Economic development is about bringing dollars from outside inside and keeping the dollars generated inside from escaping too much,” said Collard. “It’s an exercise in sovereignty to engage in trade.”

More articles in this series:

Wayne Garnons-Williams - Inter-tribal trade provides tribal, economic sovereignty

Jim Collard - CPN foreign-trade zone ready for long term contracts

Keith Matthew - Cando to be “honest broker” in developing inter-tribal trade

Ray Wanuch - Strong economic development plans required to move forward with FTZs