By Dayo Johnson, Akure
The investment drive of Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, in the last two years in the saddle, has started paying off.
The state has, in fact, joined the club of industrialized states, a feat which had looked near impossible since after the administration of the late Chief Adekunle Ajasin who was the first civilian governor between 1979 and 1984.
Akeredolu’s determination to change the narrative by ensuring that a solid economic and industrial platform was laid started a year after he assumed office when he embarked on an investment trip to China.
The tour gave birth to the popular Ore industrial Park.
As at the last count, no fewer than five companies are ready to begin operations in the Ore industrial hub.
Akeredolu has, indeed, turned Ore to a beehive of activities.
The companies that have sprung up after the state government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Linyi municipal government of Shandong province of China include a paper mill, an ethanol plant, a medium density fibre board, a high-density fibre board, a plywood firm and a textile company.
Conducting newsmen round the companies described as ‘the Akeredolu wonders in Ore’, the Business Development Manager of Wewood Limited, Mr. Sun Peng, said, “The ethanol plant is at about 95 percent completed and set to roll. The ethanol factory is almost ready at 95 percent completion.
“The ethanol factory is billed to convert cassava to ethanol. It has the capacity to convert cassava to edible form, used by pharmaceuticals, breweries and food processing industries.
“We are expected to begin test-running the machines any moment from now.
“About 1,000 people have been employed for the ethanol factory. The plant is also expected to indirectly provide jobs for more than 10,000 people, particularly cassava farmers and traders”.
Peng added that a special species of cassava was being planted in – between the Gmelina to be used to feed the ethanol plant.
In order not to starve the company of raw materials, the state government, in partnership with Weewood, embarked on aggressive afforestation by allocating 10, 000 hectares of land for the planting of G-melina while over six million trees have been planted on 3, 000 hectares under phase one of the project.
Inside the ethanol factory’s warehouse, several thousands of bags of dried cassava were waiting to be fed into the machines, while more than 10 trailer-loads were waiting to discharge their cassava consignment.
Also, the WinWin Textile factory in the industrial park has kick-started the production of textile thread with over 300 workers.
The Nigerian Manager of WinWin Textile, Ahmed Adeyinka, said the textile is already producing polyester sewing thread.
“We planned to move to the next stage of producing textile materials like lace and Ankara among others”, Adeyinka said.
“Presently, we have 300 people working for us. We produce all kinds of sewing polyester thread for the local market. In a couple of months from now, the factory will begin to run at full capacity with the production of textile materials of all kinds.”
Of significance too is the Weewood Plywood/HDF factory.
The company produces high-quality fibre board plywood. They are already in high demand in local markets across and outside the state. Waste woods are processed into high and low density fibre.
Very soon, the state is expected to earn foreign exchange through the export of the product.
With the over 85 percent completion of the paper mill factory, the Business Development Manager for Weewood, Peng said, “On completion, the paper mill is expected to employ more than 3, 000 direct staff and offer more than 4, 000 indirect jobs to those who will be in the supply and marketing chain!!
“By the time the paper mill factory goes fully into operation, paper products can be bought right here in Ondo, without anyone going to Lagos”.
It was gathered that long before the machines for the paper mill began to arrive Nigeria, Weewood had started planting the trees that will form the primary raw materials for the mill.
Today, the almost 10,000 hectares of land allocated for the project has starter yielding result, as the trees have started to grow.
One of the workers in the factories said, “The governor deserves commendation for this initiative. This is a win-win situation for Ondo State and its people. The company will employ our people on the farm to plant the trees, it will also go on to employ our people in the factory and other auxiliary jobs that would be created.”
At the ethanol project, it was observed that farmers, businessmen and women were already reaping from the indirect jobs created.
A cassava farmer in the area, Shehu Oladapo, who spoke with newsmen, said, “I thank Governor Akeredolu for this initiative. Farmers like me now have a ready market for our cassava. It has encouraged us to increase the number of hectares that we will prepare to grow cassava for the next planting season”.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that the Ore Industrial Park is fashioned after that of Linyi municipal government of Shandong province in China.
One of the governor’s aides, who was on the tour, submitted, “If the experience of the Linyi’s economy, which is based around wholesale markets and an annual trade volume of 40 billion RMB (US$5 billion), is anything to go by, the administration of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has set a standard by which governance would be measured in the country”.