City officials approved a request to contribute $5,000 to the Central Maine Growth Council for a Foreign Trade Zone Enhancement project.

A Foreign Trade Zone program offers economic incentives for businesses that import or export their goods outside of the United States through delayed or reduced duty payments on foreign merchandise; the ability to only file a single customs entry for an entire week's outbound shipments; and an exemption from state and local inventory taxes, among other benefits.

Currently, there are five Foreign Trade Zones in the state — Auburn, Bangor, Brunswick, Madawaska and Waterville.

While Belfast does not have an established Foreign Trade Zone, the city serves as the port of entry for Waterville, which does have a designated zone. Waterville, in conjunction with the Central Maine Growth Council, is looking at transforming its Foreign Trade Zone into an 'alternate site framework,' according to a memorandum from Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge.

Under the alternate site framework, businesses in Belfast would be able to benefit from Waterville's Foreign Trade Zone. As part of the effort to establish the alternate site framework, FTZ Networks, the firm hired to assist with the project, would identify businesses, including those in Belfast, that would benefit from the Foreign Trade Zone, and launch a marketing campaign to increase awareness of the program.

City Manager Joseph Slocum said businesses such as Mathews Brothers, Ducktrap River of Maine and Front Street Shipyard would potentially benefit from the Foreign Trade Zone program.

The Central Maine Growth Council has secured funding contributions from the Kennebec Regional Development Authority/First Park, Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, Waterville and Winslow. Kittredge estimated the total cost of the work to establish the alternate site framework for the Foreign Trade Zone at $35,000.

Slocum said the city's contribution would be taken from an account that contains $25,778.01 in leftover funding from the Belfast Development Corporation.

Councilors unanimously approved Kittredge's request to contribute $5,000 to the Central Maine Growth Council to expand Waterville's Foreign Trade Zone.

In other business

Councilors approved a transfer of $3,000 from the Airport Runway Capital Reserves account for survey and appraisal work associated with a possible land swap. The city is looking to construct a parallel taxi runway to allow planes landing at the airport to get off the runway sooner.

Currently the city does not own enough land to construct the taxi runway and is looking to swap some land with the National Guard Armory, which owns a portion of land that abuts the airport.

City officials approved a request from Kittredge to send a letter of intent to apply for a Community Development Block Grant program housing assistance grant that would help continue to improve multifamily rental housing in the city.