President Trump's tariff plan on imported steel and aluminum may force companies to find other ways to save money.

More than 200 foreign trade zones in the U.S. may help with those increasing costs. The Chattanooga area has one.

Eleven counties in the Chattanooga area are in the foreign trade zone. The idea is to allow companies in the zone to either avoid tariffs or postpone paying them. 

While President Trump's new tariffs on imported aluminum and steel are creating headlines, so is an old strategy for avoiding them.

"Foreign trade zones were meant to be a way to help reduce the impact of tariffs particularly during the time when the united states had very high tariffs," Charles Wood, VP of Economic Development for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Chattanooga area has one of seven foreign trade zones in Tennessee.

There are four active companies in it including Volkswagen, Komatsu, Derby, and Sofix. Some of Volkswagen's suppliers are also in the zone.

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"Certainly, there's a value proposition for manufacturers. At the very least, it allows them to improve their business cycle timing with when they have to pay those tariffs and at best, it eliminates them completely if they're exporting the finished product outside of the us," Wood said.

Wood said imported aluminum and steel do not fall under the federal guidelines for tariff relief. Other products like electrical components do.

Dr. Leanora Brown with UTC said foreign trade zones could become more popular.

"You can see why, right? Because you know being shielded from all of these taxes and duties that you would otherwise incur at the border," Dr. Brown said.

It costs companies at a minimum $25,000 a year to be in the zone, but some stand to save a million dollars per year.

READ MORE | UPDATE: Companies with TN Valley facilities respond to President Trump's tariff announcement

Wood said the zone has helped bring jobs to Chattanooga.

"So, the goal for Chattanooga, in particular, is to increase the number of companies that we have that export a product or service outside of the market. At the end of the day, that's how our economy continues to grow," Wood said.

To be part of the zone, a firm with the chamber does a cost-benefit analysis.

That includes asking the company what products they import into the U.S., where they're coming from, and what they make. It's all to see if the foreign trade zone would help them.