International trade center plans 2018 opening in Arizona

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CASA GRANDE, AZ (AP) -

An international trade hub is scheduled to open next year in Casa Grande, Arizona, after being plagued by delays, setbacks and a federal investigation.

PhoenixMart was first announced in 2011 as a sourcing center bringing manufacturers, sellers and buyers together for large-scale purchases. Its leaders said the project is now set to open by the end of 2018, the Casa Grande Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/2yMXsfb) last week.

The project that officials touted as bringing thousands of jobs to the area experienced several setbacks because of problems with building permits, canceled contracts and an FBI investigation into the parent company AZ Sourcing. Despite the problems, construction began last year, and the structure's shell was built.

[RELATED: Feds threaten to cut funding for PhoenixMart]

Earlier this year, AZ Sourcing reached an agreement with Casa Grande to extend the city's sewer line to the structure. Other work on its infrastructure is expected to begin soon.

While building permits were issued when the construction began, Paul Tice, the city's planning and development director, said the company has indicated that there might be design changes, which would require new permits.

Company CEO Marshall Stahl said the plans will sent to the city soon.

"We're moving forward in a substantial way," Stahl said. "I look forward to the time when the activity resumes."

The project was originally planned to be funded through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program that gives residency to foreign investors under certain stipulations. But officials say they have moved away from this strategy.

The Casa Grande location was selected for the project because of the city's proximity to Phoenix, Tucson and major roadways.

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