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Executives from the U.S. and The Bahamas are descending on Shanghai today to reveal detailed plans behind a $200 million distribution center in Freeport.
The high-profile project, formerly known as AsiaMart, has now launched its website (www.worldmartbahamas.com) and expanded the concept in a big way. The 1.1-million-square-foot hub for international trade zone will know be known as World Mart.
BCEGI-USA Construction Corporation, the American subsidiary of Being Construction Engineering Group, will lead a presentation this week at the Chinese metropolis. Kenneth Hutton, the director of World Mart, is also leading the delegation for The Bahamas.
BCEGI-USA will serve as the general contractor, while The Export-Import Bank of China is expected to provide financing for the $200 million project. Thought to be a game-changer for Grand Bahama, World Mart has gained the support of the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) and the Chinese Embassy in Nassau.
This week's meeting in Shanghai aims to court some of the first businesses that will take up residence in the massive complex.
According to the recently launched website, World Mart is comprised of five distinct districts geared to specific areas of trade and distribution: Fashion Boulevard, Technology Way, Home Goods Avenue, Manufacturing Place and Season Street.
The latter, for example, offers year-round products with a festive and seasonal flare, such as Christmas, Easter or Halloween.
"Each district in World Mart is a long street followed by a spectacular cul-de-sac at the end. These cul-de-sacs host industry highlights as well as stand as a central location for industry and business conferences," the website said, which is also offered in Chinese. "Frosted glass houses at the center of each cul-de-sac allow the districts featured vendor to be highlighted, or can be closed off for private conferences and private meetings."
Each district is in the shape of a circle, and perhaps most interestingly, a giant glass cube lies in the middle.
"These immaculate cubes serve a dual function," the website added.
"During the day, they feature prominent items from all stores in the cul-de-sac, but when necessary - flip a switch - and they become a private conference facility to host meetings or to give an industry seminar. All cube structures are home to a sound-proof electronic glass, that when on, does not allow anyone to see in or out the structure."
As guests and businessmen enter the Grand Entrance, they are greeted by LED wallpaper, which serves as a compass and allows them to navigate the venue or learn about daily specials.
The space age technology is contrasted by green space dotted between the five districts.
But beyond the commercial power of World Mart is a focus on experience, Hutton told Guardian Business.
The main entrance, also in the form of a circle, will be home to top-end restaurants, services, entertainment and Bahamian businesses. The concept of World Mart is to not just bring big business to The Bahamas, but create a destination in itself.
Plans are also in the works to build a hotel for travellers.
The center will include 1,600 individual stalls, providing merchants from China and around the world with an international platform to trade, sell and distribute mass quantities of goods to corporations through North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Bahamian business model has been fashioned from Yiwu International Trade City, one of the largest wholesale centers in the world.
"We are looking to begin construction in the first quarter of next year, with completion sometime in 2015," Hutton added.
"What is great about the project is its not another mega resort. The focus is on trade and business, and the concept fits in with BCEDI-USA's hope to promote small-to-medium-sized businesses in China by displaying and selling their products through the region."
World Mart is planning other delegations to North America, Latin America and elsewhere to entice an eclectic group of investors and businesses.
According to the latest numbers from the Department of Statistics, the unemployment rate in Grand Bahama is around 21 percent.
World Mart executives estimate at least 3,000 jobs will be created through the center.
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