BUTTERWORTH: Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow says Batu Kawan island can be transformed into a bustling city in the next 10 years.
Following the opening of an Ikea store here today, the chief minister said investors had not been interested in coming to Batu Kawan when the township was first developed by the Penang Development Corporation (PDC) in the 1990s despite the large tracts of land available.
But today, he said, PDC’s 1,500-acre land bank is “very little” given the top investors jostling for space there.
Besides retail outlets, two foreign universities are also set to open branches soon – the University of Wollongong (from Australia) and University of Plymouth (from the UK).
According to Chow, the suburb of Bandar Cassia in Batu Kawan has 4,017 units of residential and commercial units.
“With Ikea spending RM650 million on their first store in the region, and with other phases coming together with the Aspen Group, we expect that Batu Kawan will become a fully fledged township in the next five to 10 years,” he said.
The Batu Kawan outlet is the Swedish home furnishing company’s fourth in the country. Measuring 43,000 sq m, it is the country’s second largest after Johor’s Tebrau store which measures 46,000 sq m.
The Cheras and Damansara outlets measure 42,000 sq m and 35,000 sq m respectively.
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, who opened the outlet with Chow, said in his opening address that it held “a very special place” in his heart as he had played a role in wooing the company to invest in Penang during his time as chief minister.
He said the store had created 300 new jobs for Penangites and Kedahans as a whole, and would contribute positively to the regional economy.
“We were able to transform what was literally a green field to a golden field in Batu Kawan. It was just a jungle and we carved it out to create a township out of nothing at all.”
Batu Kawan Ikea store manager Pathmalingam Arumugam said the store would “serve almost seven million customers within the two-hour radius of the store”, tapping a much coveted northern region market.