BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) – Local businessmen are planning to present a proposal for duty-free manufacturing and shipping to federal officials within a month.

About 30 local businesses are seeking a Foreign Trade Zone designation for about 2,700 acres of land in four areas of Brattleboro.

If the U.S. Commerce Department grants the designation, unassembled merchandise could be brought into Brattleboro and stored, prepared or packaged and then shipped out. The owner of the merchandise would only pay taxes on the product, not the parts brought into the zone.

“This is a heavily populated business area and we want as many companies involved as possible,” said Joseph Famolare, the president of Brattleboro Foreign Trade Zone, the group preparing the application.

Famolare and others said the designation would increase manufacturing jobs and attract foreign companies.

The initial application was deemed “too ambitious” by the Commerce Department, said Famolare. The group has scaled it back.

Now it describes four sites in town as Foreign Trade Zones. Within those zones are separate parcels owned by different companies or business leaders.

The businesses involved are preparing for the designation, Famolare added.

“When our feet touch the ground, we will already be running,” said Famolare. “It will be instantaneous.”

The Foreign Trade Zone program began in 1934. There are more than 230 such zones in the United States now. The only one in Vermont is in Burlington.

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