F.J. Spencer, the founder of IMS Worldwide, a leading expert in free trade zone development, died Jan. 13 at the age of 85. He had recently suffered several small strokes.
Over the course of a 45-year career Spencer was a pioneer in creating new uses for the Foreign Trade Zone program in the U.S. and Caribbean countries. A chemical engineer by training with three degrees in the field and a fluent speaker of nine languages, Spencer’s accomplishments spanned manufacturing and international trade.
He succeeded, in the early years of plastic resin manufacturing, in figuring out how to ensure that resin pellets remain pellets instead of streaming together. This patented breakthrough in the early 1950s paved the way for modern plastics resin manufacturing.
In the area of foreign trade zone development, he worked with the U.S. departments of Energy and Commerce to allow America refineries to reap the benefits of the Foreign Trade Zone program. Until the early 1980s, there had been no U.S. mainland refineries using the FTZ program, and no refined petroleum products were allowed to be exported before that time due to an Energy Department embargo.
By incorporating refineries into the FTZ system the ports of Corpus Christi, Houston, Port Arthur, Beaumont, Lake Charles and Baton Rouge emerged vital economic engines. In 1984 he created the nation’s largest FTZ project for the Port of Houston.
During his career Spencer was acknowledged as a leading speaker in the industry, giving many keynote speeches and serving as an educator at corporate training events. Among the groups he addressed during his career were the American Association of Port Authorities, the National Association of Foreign-Trade Zones, Trammell Crow Companies, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and many others.
He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Nina Spencer, four children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren on the way. His son Curtis Spencer heads IMS Worldwide.