Down the Road Le Mars: Hospital Expansion and Foreign Trade Zone

Construction of a 25 million dollar expansion and renovation project is taking place in Le Mars. "With healthcare reform making its way through the American healthcare system now, this is our way of adapting our processes and procedures and being ready to deliver services a different way in the future," Said Floyd Valley Hospital Administrator Mike Donlin. Last fall work began in a new geothermal heating and cooling system and other infrastructure. Now work is underway on a two story addition that will house a family medicine clinic on the ground floor, and a surgery center on the upper level that replaces the old operating rooms. Donlin intends to move into the new clinic and the surgery center next summer. Renovation of the hospital's 25 patient rooms will also be finished.

"We have gradually remodeled and renovated 18 of those 25," said Donlin. "And sure enough those last seven rooms are also part of the third phase of this project."

There is no confusing Le Mars with Los Angeles, Houston or even Des Moines. But they all have one thing in common to help business and industry compete in the global market, a foreign trade zone. Foreign trade zones were created by Congress in the 1930's to establish a level playing field for US manufacturers. They are a designated area within the US where foreign and domestic products are considered to be outside of the United States. Last fall six northwest Iowa counties: Cherokee, Lyon, O'Brien, Osceola, Plymouth, and Sioux became foreign zone 288. "It allows companies when they import certain products that they can defer the duties and taxes on that product until it leaves the foreign trade zone. And if they export that product directly out of the states they never do have to pay those duties," said Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce Director Neal Adler. Adler says a number of businesses are exploring how to take advantage of the designation. He says a great example is wind turbine companies which need to have a lot of stuff on hand in case of breakdowns. "They can sit in the foreign trade zone without any duties or import duties being paid on them until they leave the foreign trade zone," Adler said. "So they can have an expensive piece of equipment sitting there for a long time without paying the duty on that." Woodbury County may soon be included in that foreign trade zone. The county has applied for membership, and is just waiting to get an answer back from the federal government.