Saby Elemba in Owerri
A wave of enthusiastic optimism appears to permeate stakeholders in Imo State, including the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and the Owerri Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (OCCIMA), as well as other business concerns, who believe that the state could be repositioned to become robust once again for business, like in the glorious days of the late former governor, Sam Mbakwe, when Orlu senatorial zone alone had about at least 60 flourishing small and medium scale enterprises.
Imo State is believed to be well positioned by its location which has close proximity to other states in the South East and South South regions.
Some members of MAN, Imo/Abia branch, and OCCIMA, said the Owerri Industrial Layout located at Irete in Owerri West Local Government Area, has been lying fallow for a long time.
“The industrial zone had more than 260 industrial plots and the enterprises were thriving in the days of the late governor Sam Mbakwe, because the business environment was conducive. But as government administrations come and go, paying lip service to bettering the layout, the business sector crashed.
“The present government headed by Governor Hope Uzodinma has no other option than to make Imo State thrive again like the late Sam Mbakwe days.
“This is possible, if he, the governor, can revamp the industrial layout in Owerri, Okigwe, and Orlu zones as well as put away fears in the minds of the people by putting security measures and dealing squarely with the insecurity in Imo State, Owerri and the entire state will bounce back as a business hub.
“But I know that Governor Hope Uzodinma is trying to make things better for the workers and the business group,” Monday Osuji, an entrepreneur, told Business a.m.
A member of OCCIMA, who did not want his name in print, said: “Many business groups have visited Imo State with the intention of establishing businesses here including the people from Thailand recently. Things can work out well with Asian countries that have the enthusiasm to invest in areas of their choice and I believe that this government can make Imo move again.”
Meanwhile, a group of Thai business men who visited Governor Hope Uzodinma had presented to him many different proposals to woo the state government and establish partnership.
In their different presentations, the leaders of the team, Lloyd Nwafor, who is the president of Nigerians in the Diaspora Organisation of Thailand, Weerapan Thangma, president, Maejo University, Chang Miag, Thailand; and Supachai Keowsiri, project director, Tupac Consultancy, said that they had come to seek possible areas of partnership and collaboration with the state government.
They also spoke about possible partnership in areas like oil and gas, renewable energy, rubber estate development, and agriculture, all targeted at improving the economy and the wellbeing of Imo people, as well as others that are resident in the state.
Also, the group drew the attention of the governor to opportunities in soil improvement, irrigation for all year round farming, waste to wealth and development of Imo Free Trade Zone for industrial cluster and export.
They commended the governor for his achievements in Imo State and described what they have seen as evidence of a leader with sincerity of purpose to develop his state and people and by extension, the South East zone in general.
In response to their proposals, the governor assured them of his intention to thoroughly scrutinise and analyse them to see areas of common interest that would be beneficial to Imo State and the Thai business group, and commended them for the interest they had shown in Imo State and for the boldness to partner with the state.
He stated that Imo needed genuine business partners, and that all the areas of interest highlighted in their proposals would be looked into.
“There is a need to sit down with you, work out areas of most pressing demands for the state and come up with a template that will guarantee a win-win situation,” he said.