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Local leaders recognize the value of having a customs officer at New River Airport facility.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Local governments in the Roanoke and New River valleys have joined the regions’ congressmen and Virginia’s U.S. senators in a push to restore customs staffing at the port of entry based at the New River Valley Airport. Despite their combined efforts, federal officials said Thursday they will eliminate the customs agent position, the only one available for all of Southwest Virginia.
The U.S Customs and Border Protection agency has decided not to maintain staffing for the Dublin-based facility after the port’s director retired earlier this year.
Reps. Bob Goodlatte and Morgan Griffith, and Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, have been pressing the agency for an explanation, to no avail.
The New River Valley facility began receiving federal funding as a “port of entry” in 2006. The port and a foreign trade zone were developed jointly to serve an area within a 90-mile radius of the airport, with the port’s customs officer available to travel within that radius. Foreign trade zone status allowed for materials and goods to be shipped into the area without being subject to U.S. customs duties and tariffs.
The lack of a full-time customs presence at the port will hurt the region’s competitiveness over the long term unless the agency’s decision is reversed.
Roanoke City Council last week passed a resolution calling CPB to fill the customs officer position “to allow for continued smooth functioning of the freight transportation system and future international development and commerce for the entire region.”
Griffith, Goodlatte, Warner and Kaine have asked CPB to review all U.S. ports of entry to determine how the Dublin facility’s usage compares to others.
The agency should use objective criteria to allocate staffing at its ports, not simply seek to save money through attrition without regard for economic impacts.
It took years of hard work to establish a federally funded port of entry in this region. Despite last week’s setback, local governments and economic development groups shouldn’t give up without a fight.
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