Chinese investment would be a massive boost

Cllr Sandy Ezekiel
Cllr Sandy Ezekiel

A KENT region's potential for worldwide investors and economic security is set for a huge boost if it becomes the European hub for Chinese businesses.

Just hours after returning from a "challenging, positive and extremely tough" week-long trip to China, Thanet District Council leader Sandy Ezekiel was upbeat about the prospects.

He said: "The Chinese are very keen to invest here. They are impressed with the strategic importance of our very close links with mainland Europe and see us as an ideal point for their expansion."

The tour was organised and paid for by Chinamex, an outward investment company, supported by the Chinese government.

Chinamex is looking to develop a business centre at the Manston Business Park, which is part owned by public listed company CGP.

The centre would feature mainly research and development and sales businesses including internet/media, security and electronics specialists and would create more than 1,000 jobs locally.

It is also hoped that heavy industry such as steel manufacturing could eventually be located in Thanet as part of the deal.

The Thanet party also included deputy leader Cllr Roger Latchford, chief executive Richard Samuel and corporate director John Bunnett, and the group's whistle-stop intinerary included meetings in Beijing and Hong Kong.

The next step is for a planning application for the project to be submitted and an environmental assessment to be carried out by early next year. By the end of January the chairman of Chinamex is expected to have visited Thanet on a further fact-finding tour.

Cllr Ezekiel added: "There is no doubt that it was crucial that we made this trip. It shows we are a serious player on a world stage.

"I truly believe this link will happen and it will send a very clear message to other major investors that we are open for business."

Chief executive Richard Samuel said: "This was a very positive step for Thanet. I am confident that we are in a good position if we can work at the speed the Chinese want.

"There could be enormous direct employment benefits plus important extra business in ancillary sectors including catering and the service industries.

"It is an exciting time. The Chinese would like the first part of the Thanet project up and running within 12 months, so we have to move fast."

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