Published: Monday, 25th February, 2013 11:00am
This design image shows what part of the China Trade Hub proposed for Creggan, Athlone, could look like.
The backers of a mammoth international trade hub planned for Athlone will tomorrow (Tuesday) host a forum in Shanghai designed to help secure investment for the project.
It's understood that Ireland's Ambassador to China, Declan Kelleher, is among those scheduled to address the event which is being hosted by Athlone Business Park Ltd.
The company, led by former Roscommon County Manager John Tiernan, secured planning permission for the first phase of the project in Creggan last May.
Mr Tiernan said progress is being made "on an ongoing basis" in relation to the plans, and financial advisers Deloitte have been engaged to work on the project since last summer.
"The promoters have a sound business proposal and they have secured the planning (permission), " he said.
"In that sense the project is 'shovel ready'. Investors and occupiers are at various stages of inquiry and due diligence. If they can secure the investment, the employment and other spin business off opportunities for Athlone could be significant."
He said interest in tomorrow's one-day investment forum in Shanghai had been "very positive," with "a considerable number of companies" due to attend. These included both private and Chinese Government-owned enterprises.
News of the hugely ambitious proposals to develop an international trade hub in Creggan first started to emerge three years ago.
Last year, An Bord Pleanala granted permission for Phase One of the project, which is due to include three massive exhibition halls, nine smaller trade halls, and additional facilities totalling 102, 348 sq m (1.1m sq ft).
Last November, Mr Tiernan said discussions were ongoing "with a number of potential major investors" who "would put up the substantial part" of the €205m construction cost of phase one.
He stated that if the necessary investment was forthcoming, work would get underway in 2014.