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Friday, Aug 19, 2022
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Alameda

In response to the area’s growing number of small import-export businesses, a Los Angeles developer has begun construction of downtown L.A.’s first modern industrial park.

The 20-acre facility, dubbed the Alameda Trade Center, is being developed by Lowe Enterprises Inc. on an empty lot at the northeast corner of Alameda and Bay Streets. The project will be inaugurated at a June 17 ceremony to be attended by Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and international trade and economic development officials.

In recent years, the southeastern reaches of downtown L.A. have become a hub for small, mostly immigrant-owned, import and export firms. But such businesses have been underserved in terms of facilities to meet their needs, said Doug Hinchliffe, the Lowe executive vice president in charge of the project.

“There is a whole host of folks down here that no one ever sees,” Hinchliffe said. “It became apparent that the one part of the market that was the strongest had the least amount of product.”

Once completed, the Alameda Trade Center will consist of 32 stand-alone buildings, ranging in size from 11,000 to 35,000 square feet. The buildings will be sold rather than leased for an average price of about $1.4 million, Hinchliffe said.

Developers already have logged one sale, to Pacific Giant Seafood, a seafood importer and distributor, which is preparing to move into its new 16,000 square foot warehouse in October.

Another company, Jeanneth International which imports watches from China and sends the bulk of the merchandise on to Mexico is in escrow to buy a 15,000-square-foot warehouse and headquarters.

Lowe officials expect more customers to come on board once they become aware of the advantages the park has to offer.

On such advantage, developers say, is its location at the northern end of the Alameda Corridor the 22-mile expanded rail and truck route designed to speed cargo from the ports of L.A. and Long Beach to the railyards and distribution centers near downtown.

What’s more, the park has been designated a Foreign Trade Zone by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Such zones provide an array of cost-saving incentives to attract and promote participation in international trade, including the waiver of a number of customs duties, taxes and fees which can significantly reduce the cost of importing and exporting merchandise.

Companies operating in a Foreign Trade Zone, for example, do not have to pay duties on merchandise exported from the zone. Duties and internal revenue tax, meanwhile, can be withheld until import merchandise is transferred out of the zone a provision which allows a business much greater control over its cash-flow.

Customs procedures also are somewhat simpler within the zone.

An analysis of the project by the Economic Development Corp. of L.A. County estimates that the Alameda Trade Center will bring between $3.2 million and $8.6 million in new sales tax revenue to the county. It also will generate 834 construction jobs over the next three years.

Lowe purchased the property in 1988, and originally planned to build an apparel market on the site. That deal, however, soon fell victim to L.A.’s recession and real estate downturn and the financing fell through.

Since then, the company has been leasing the property on a short-term basis to film and television production companies, which have used it for filming and set building. During the holiday season, the site has been popular as a Christmas tree lot.

But Hinchliffe said the property finally has found a use which will last well into the future.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that these folks are doing something right,” Hinchliffe said of the import-export entrepreneurs he expects to populate the park. “The future lies with this new wave of entrepreneurs.”

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