City’s ‘Business Friendliness’ Keeps Customs Brokerage Firm In Long Beach

by Tiffany Rider, Staff Writer

The head of a national customs brokerage firm said the company has made Long Beach its home for the past 15 years in part because of the city and port’s business friendliness and its proximity to U.S. Customs and Border Protection service, freight cashiers and terminal operators.

Troy Clarke, president of CBT International, Inc., operates an office of eight employees, including two other licensed brokers, in the International City Bank building at 249 E. Ocean Blvd. Although Clarke says there was an exodus of brokers from Long Beach 20 years ago (due to better office rates in the South Bay and closer to LAX, while freight cashiers were leaving the state because of union issues), he chose to stay because of the frequent interactions with the freight cashiers, customs office and local facilities to get merchandise released.

“It’s really important for me to be down here,” Clarke says. “I moved from Wilmington on Anaheim Street to Long Beach because it was a friendlier business environment. . . . It’s an international city and it recognizes itself as that. . . . It’s business friendly because of the attitude and the culture of the politicians in Long Beach.”

The general commodity import business has a two-part focus at CBT. One is to receive commodity documents and process them through federal agencies so the commodity can be delivered to the importer. The other is making sure the importers are in regulatory compliance; that they are cognizant and in compliance of the laws and regulations associated with the commodity being imported.

“I have toy importers, for example, who bring in lots of toys that are subject to lead testing and the consumer product safety issues,” Clarke says. “My job is to make sure they have the right documents and that they do these things timely so that they’re in compliance.”

CBT handles about $300 million worth of merchandise annually in Free on Board (FOB) value.  FOB includes the cost of the merchandise and its shipment to the port or airport destination. “That’s not the domestic value,” Clarke says. “The domestic value would be something like three times that.”

Clarke has a unique background in the customs brokerage field, being a former customs officer for U.S. Customs Commercial Operations Divisions at the San Pedro Bay Ports. He learned about the brokerage community through his work, and 11 years later he left to work for a private firm in New York out of an office in Los Angeles.  “I would have to say when most customs officers retire, they retire,” he says. “Not that many leave the service until they retire.”

A year into his work with the firm, he took the broker’s test to become licensed. “With that customs license, we collect customs duties on behalf of the government,” Clarke says. In addition to the test – which Clarke says has a typical pass rate of less than six percent – customs brokers must be U.S citizens and undergo a full field background check by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“When I passed my test, I left the New York brokerage company and opened up my own firm out here a year later,” he says. “That was 25 years ago.” When that firm went under, Clarke says he had a government job lined up in Washington, D.C., but decided to open his own firm through the encouragement and support of a former client.

Clarke has a bachelor of science in international business from California State University, Los Angeles, and was trained in customs law at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York.

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