The team behind the plan to create an international China trade hub 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 €175m 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.
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 development — the full site would be operational by 2022, employing about 9,000 workers, two-thirds of whom must be Irish orEuropean.
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. While discussions have taken place with some Chinese manufacturers, no firms have signed up to base themselves at the Midlands facility.
Mr Tiernan said Athlone Business Park Ltd, whose directors include Aidan Kelly and Michael O’Sullivan, have been speaking to a number of Chinese investors over the last three years. They envisage that it will attract 1,750 visitors a day.
Phase one focuses mainly on showcasing and is a fraction of the overall 140-hectare plan, which also includes two five-star hotels, a Chinese palace and serviced apartments.
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