Hercules Aerospace officials hope Wednesday's visit from U.S. Secretary of Commerce C. William Verity will aid their efforts to get an import-duty break on materials used in the production of graphite fibers.

Verity toured the Hercules' Bacchus Works plant in West Valley City Wednesday to get a first hand look at how polacrylonitrile (PAN) - an acrylic material imported from Japan - is made into carbon fibers used in commercial and military aircraft and missile parts manufactured at Hercules.The secretary wouldn't say he supports Hercules' request for a free trade zone involving PAN, although regional commerce officials have voiced support for the move. He said he'd take information he gathered from his visit and share it with Department of Defense officials, who oppose the tariff break.

"It helps to bring people here like Mr. Verity," a Hercules spokesman said.

The brief tour also helped Republican congressional candidate Richard Snelgrove, who sponsored Verity's afternoon visit to Utah. While Verity didn't give an opinion on the Hercules trade issue, he did give a hearty endorsement of Snelgrove, who is running against Democratic incumbent Rep. Wayne Owens for the 2nd District seat.

After a brief remark about his tour of Hercules, Verity launched into a campaign speech characterizing Owens as a liberal environmentalist unaware of Utah's economic growth problems and Snelgrove as a conservative businessman who can meet Utah's need for jobs.

"You need to know the difference between a liberal Democrat, which Wayne Owens is, and a fiscal conservative like Richard Snelgrove," Verity said.

Although he is not in office, Snelgrove said he wasn't going to wait until he is elected to "make a difference," and that is why he sponsored Verity's trip, including paying for the secretary's flight from Washington, D.C.

"Secretary Verity is here today to discuss an economic problem Hercules is facing," Snelgrove said. "I am concerned about Utah's economy and I feel it is necessary to help resolve this issue as soon as possible."

The problem has actually been lingering for several years, and Utah's congressional delegation, including Owens, sent a letter last August to the Department of Commerce's Foreign Trade Zone Board requesting support for Hercules' application.

Hercules pays a 10.2 percent textile duty on the 5 million tons of PAN it imports from Japan every year. Hercules argues the material is not a textile and shouldn't be levied a textile duty.

The aerospace firm further says its competitors import carbon fiber products produced from PAN overseas for a 5.6 percent duty. The discrepancy causes a competitive disadvantage for Hercules and keeps the United States from establishing a domestic source of PAN and carbon fiber products.

Verity said he would discuss the Hercules PAN plant with defense officials.

During his daylong visit, the secretary also toured the McDonnell-Douglas plant and was told by company executives that more support industries are needed in the Salt Lake area.

He spoke at $125-a-plate luncheon for Snelgrove at Little America. There, he told the more than 100 supporters of the Republican candidate that Congress needed more "good, solid, business-oriented people like Richard Snelgrove."

Verity also met briefly with the First Presidency of the LDS Church. Church spokesman Richard Lindsay said the secretary commended the church for its strong efforts in promoting moral and ethical behavior, which he said were essential ingredients in a healthy moral and economic climate.

Lindsay said Verity also renewed his acquaintance with President Thomas S. Monson. The two served together on a presidential commisson on voluntarism.