China trade hub 'in three years'
The team behind an ambitious plan to create an international China trade hub the size of a town is aiming to have phase one up and running in three years.
Athlone Business Park Ltd wants to get a jump on rival bidders in England for the lucrative one-stop trade and exhibition centre which will initially create 1,530 jobs.
The 175 million euro first phase of the Europe China Trading Hub at Creggan, near Athlone, will provide a base for Chinese companies to promote business in Europe and across the western world.
John Tiernan, chief executive of Athlone Business Park Ltd, said it is aiming for construction to begin by the end of next year.
"It's big, yes. Some people have been gobsmacked by the overall scale of the masterplan but that is only if everything comes to pass," he said.
"I'm confident. But until the point when I'm told 'start pouring the concrete', there's always some doubt. And it's worth noting it's a project that does not produce waste water pipes with gunge coming out - it's a project that produces jobs."
The focus of the hub is to give executives and buyers on the US east coast easy access to the Chinese market without costly and time-consuming visa applications and travel.
The aim is to open phase one by mid-2015. If plans come to fruition and another five phases can be filled - an estimated 1.4 billion euro development - the full site would be operational by 2022, employing about 9,000 workers, two-thirds of whom must be Irish or European.
It is understood Chinese money will finance the project and Irish banks will have no role in the lending.
The development - which will also have a special Irish section to promote domestic business - will house massive exhibition centres for buyers to assess products before placing bulk orders.