By: Jeff Stadelman
In 1979 a charter was approved by the federal government creating the Foreign Trade Zone #44 in Mount Olive. It was the brainchild of local visionary Leslie Smith of Mount Olive. Mr. Smith entered into a partnership with the Rockefeller Group, a real estate company related to New York’s Rockefeller Center. The 684-acre site was planned in three sections. An office park of 300 acres, industrial park of about 80 acres and the NJ Foreign Trade Zone consisting of 300 acres, would be developed along intersecting highways of Interstate 80, US 46, and State Highway 206 in Mount Olive.
A foreign trade zone allows companies to import goods and components to a facility within a designated zone deferring the payment of import duties, enabling goods and components to be warehoused, assembled, manufactured, packaged, tested, graded, cleaned, mixed, processed or exhibited until it reships those items to markets within the United States. If the products are instead shipped out of the country, no duties are assessed or collected. Jobs would be created within the park as well as at amenities and support businesses in the area.
Initially faced with many opposition forces, ground was broken when the Hattori Corporation of Japan (Seiko watch) became the first tenant in 1984 with BMW (Bavarian Motor Works) the following year. Also in 1985, Mars’ Information Services Group, Mars’ analytical and computer services arm, broke ground and remained a tenant until 2020 when it relocated to Newark in a reorganization at Mars. Construction of ramps giving direct access to Interstate 80 immediately followed and additional corporations began to populate the property putting Mount Olive on the map from a commercial perspective.
Undoubtedly, the Trade Zone added much to the aspects of township life including growth in local jobs, housing, schools, businesses, roads, sewers and other services.