When city officials in Nashville, Tennessee were looking to re-engineer the city’s proposal for a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ), they knew just the expert consultants to engage: a pair of Middlebury Institute students. Earlier this year, City staffer and Institute alumnus Maxwell Dotson contacted Program Co-Chair Robert Rogowsky, who in turn connected him with Professor Warren "Wes" Small and Jennifer Romanin MAITED ’18 and Gunther Errhalt MAITED ’18, students in Small’s Trade Compliance course.
“What interested me most about the project was the possibility of being able to see a real impact with the work that we were doing,” says Romanin. “It was amazing to see the research and work we did really have the possibility of resulting in the creation and implementation of a functioning FTZ for the city of Nashville.”
“This project exemplifies our program’s approach because this was a real-world, real-time project,” says Professor Small. “We received guidance from the Nashville mayor’s office as to what was needed, and the students had hard deadlines for both interim deliverables and the final project submission.” The students researched FTZ’s operating in cities with demographics similar to Nashville’s and “laid the groundwork for a comparative analysis between the Nashville FTZ and [ten other comparable cities].”
A foreign trade zone (or “free trade zone” or FTZ) is a specific class of special economic zone defined by a geographic area where goods may be landed, stored, handled, manufactured, or reconfigured, and re-exported under specific customs regulation and generally not subject to customs duty. The focus of the project was to develop a more effective approach to incorporating small and medium size enterprises into the Nashville FTZ, offering them greater access to participate more fully in the global economy.
“Our students’ work was included as an annex to a comprehensive report on the condition of Nashville’s FTZ that was developed this summer, and the report was very well received by the City of Nashville,” reports Small. If Nashville does move ahead with revitalizing their FTZ, it promises to kick off an ongoing project in which faculty and students in the International Trade and Economic Diplomacy program will provide continuing technical assistance to the City as it works to expand and improve its FTZ.
“It was a great experience to learn about FTZ’s and the amount of work that goes into them,” adds Romanin. “I never realized how much was involved and how many moving parts it took in order for an FTZ to function effectively.”
“Our program is particularly exciting for students because it forces them to dig deeply into the nuts and bolts of trade policy, trade transactions, and the most practical perspective on international business,” says Rogowsky. “This particular project also highlights that every part of the United States, not just the port cities, are intimately tied into the global marketplace.”