05/26/04 — TransPark import-export firm loses contract

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TransPark import-export firm loses contract

By Wire
Published in News on May 26, 2004 2:03 PM

KINSTON (AP) -- An import-export firm hired to run a foreign trade zone by the Global TransPark lost its contract after endorsing a political move to take power from the TransPark's governing board.

TransPark officials signed a contract last October with Raleigh-based Longistics to operate the trade zone, where goods can be imported without tariffs until they leave the zone.

Longistics stirred excitement earlier this year with its Project Mother's Day proposal, which rested on importing African flowers and exporting AIDS drugs. A business plan for that venture depended on GTP control shifting from the Global TransPark Authority to the state Aviation Division.

The power shift is directly modeled after a proposal by state Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, who is seeking re-election this year. LaRoque's Democratic challenger is former Superior Court Judge James Llewellyn, the GTP's legal counsel.

LaRoque said Monday he will not back down from his proposal, which would transform the GTP Authority into an advisory board. He has said he will try to block state financing -- estimated at $1.6 million -- to the park next year unless the change is adopted.

"That is a perfect example of why they need to go," LaRoque said. "They're not interested in bringing jobs to this area. They're more interested in the politics of what's going on."

Longistics' business plan said jobs in the area could reach 1,000 by the year 2010, thanks to the international trade of medicine, pork, poultry, tobacco, cotton and other products.

TransPark officials say they have repeatedly asked for that plan, but LaRoque and state Sen. John Kerr, D-Wayne, received it first.

"They're putting not a dime of their own money in it," Gene Conti, GTP Authority vice chairman, said of Longistics. "They want to take control of the TransPark. That's just rhetoric on a piece of paper."

The plan called for Longistics to lease 58,000 square feet of an existing cargo building at the park. That lease would be at no charge for five years and $3 per square foot for each of the five years after that. Construction of several buildings is thrown into the mix.

The TransPark already had offered that, with the stipulation of landing a client within 18 months and beginning flights within three years, Conti said. Longistics wouldn't accept that requirement, he said.

"Longistics has been willing to build buildings, to bring clients in, from Day 1," said Longistics lawyer Reef C. Ivey II.

"The problem has been that there is no person with any actual business experience on their negotiating team. ... The Longs don't want to take over the GTP. They want a partnership with business people to make eastern North Carolina grow and prosper."

Conti said the TransPark will begin looking for a new foreign trade zone operator as soon as possible, but Ivey said the TransPark didn't have authority to nullify the contract with Longistics.