Career Options in the FTZ Industry

April 6, 2016

While the NAFTZ and its members are able to toss around FTZ, C-TPAT, CBP and so many other acronyms, not everyone would be able to join in that conversation. But the FTZ (Foreign-Trade Zone) industry is not one to be looked past if you’re looking for an exciting career.

A Foreign-Trade Zone is a specified area within the United States that can be considered outside the U.S. Commerce under a special federally regulated program. The Foreign Trade Zones Act of 1934 created a Foreign-Trade Zones Board to review, establish, operate and maintain these ‘zones’ which create advantageous duty situations for many business importing goods from foreign countries. Only upon entering the United States commerce, do duties become due on goods imported.

Experience factors range broadly from one career to the next, but skills that run the gamut of all offerings may include:

  • Strong analytical, problem solving and organizational skills
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • A strong desire to continually review and improve processes
  • Proficiency with Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, and databases/ERPs
  • The ability to pass a U.S. Customs background check and a drug test
  • An Associate’s Degree in Business Administration, Logistics, Finance, or other related field is desirable
  • Working knowledge of commercial invoices, packing lists, house bill of ladings, master bill of ladings and related international shipping documents
  • Excellent organizational skills for handling files and information
  • Ability to prioritize, organize and complete tasks in accordance with established deadlines
  • Detail oriented with an ability to think critically
  • Ability to communicate with individuals at all levels of the company.

Today, the FTZ Industry accounts for over 420,000 jobs in the United States and nearly 800 billion dollars in merchandise received, of which 64% is domestically sourced. For options in the FTZ industry, we offer the below information:

Warehousing and Logistics personnel

Often the unsung heroes of the FTZ Industry, people with warehousing experience who excel in detail orientation and general logistics knowledge can often grow into roles of FTZ Administration. Exposure to international goods receiving and shipping is a great foundation for turning a career into ‘running a zone’.

Freight forwarding

Individuals in the logistics industry may choose to develop their skills into positions which allow them to blend their transportation knowledge with the regulations of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and land a career in Freight Forwarding. Importers often use Freight Forwarders as their link between the port of entry and their front door. Forwarders use their resources and connections to move freight from the Port of Entry, in-bond, to the Importers Foreign-Trade Zone.

Governmental Positions

U.S. Customs and Border Protection oversees Foreign-Trade Zone operation, hence there is also potential to work at a governmental agency and connected in the FTZ industry. While Homeland Security is the agency’s first and foremost goal, CBP has heavy touches in the FTZ Community as well. From examining containers to agreeing on a certain set of delivery privileges granted by CBP, Officers and Agents have responsibilities for overseeing duties related to imported goods to insuring national security by exhibiting scrutiny of imported containers.

Account Managers

As with many industries, Account Manager positions are also quite common in the FTZ Industry. Representatives with logistics companies, freight forwarders and brokers generally offer positions dedicated to customer service for one or multiple customers. These positions would be responsible for making a particular importers processes run smoothly, from air or ocean to the doors of that customers Foreign-Trade Zone.

Information Technology

A niche market in Information Technology awaits the techy group as well. Software Product Managers – High on IT skills and data mapping are always in demand. Many companies that import goods see the need for ‘FTZ Software’ and there are several companies across the country that offer the software packages which provide inventory control and Customs filings modules. Positions ranging from entry level tech support to software development might be available. These roles generally include an Account Management aspect as well.

Customs Brokers  

All movements into and out of a Foreign-Trade Zone must be ‘filed’ with CBP. Some companies will opt to ‘self-file’ but a large majority employ the services of a Licensed Customs Broker. This position offers great flexibility with opportunities ranging from working within an Importers Compliance department to working for independent Brokerage agencies that service the needs of Importers. The exam is offered twice annually and stands to advance the career of anyone in the International Trade arena.

Grantee and Marketing roles

Grantees are often referred to as ‘the gatekeepers’ of Foreign-Trade Zone activity. They are frequently representatives of local Economic Developments of City agencies. Grantees are required to act as ‘public utilities’ and provide Uniform Treatment to all potential zone users. Often, there is a marketing aspect to roles associated with Grantees. These roles are ideally filled by individuals who possess both analytical and marketing skills to attract importers to the area of the Foreign-Trade Zone area the grantee services.

FTZ Consultants

For the entrepreneurial set, becoming an FTZ Consultant is one path to take. Administrators, both direct employees of companies and staff at organizations who offer Managed Services, become involved with clients for Activation and Implementation services. Consultants are often those individuals who have some level of experience in the industry and offer this specialized knowledge to businesses at a fee. Consultants have often worked in the industry as one or many of the previously mentioned roles and can offer expert advice to importers wishing to participate in the FTZ program.

Service Providers

Ancillary businesses that are touched by the FTZ Industry may include a broad range of products and services offered from software to bond insurance to transportation services. Attorneys fall into this category. There are numerous firms across the country that have expertise in the international trade arena and offer this knowledge to their clients on both a retainer and per project basis. Paralegals, Administrative personnel and FTZ Administrators may be employed by legal firms specializing in Trade Advisory practices.

Please contact NAFTZ for a complete listing of job opportunities and any particular questions regarding job offerings within this growing and sustainable industry.