Not many are aware that Ipoh produces some top-quality footwear for both men and women. This is being amplified by the fact that shoemaking has long been regarded a cottage industry of lesser importance. It does not matter that a large number of family-owned shoemaking businesses thrive in the erstwhile slums of Lahat, Pengkalan and Tanah Merah, where the industry began over a century ago.
Efforts to form a cooperative had been made in the past and news of a dedicated site for the many independent shoemakers had been sounded before but it fell short on expectations.
The reasons are aplenty. The reluctance of the independently-minded makers to come out of their cocoons was what was holding the idea back.
However, after many false starts and innuendoes, the dream is beginning to take shape. A 3-acre site in Pengkalan Lahat has been identified as the future Ipoh Shoe City. The ambitious project once completed will accommodate 120 shoe factories, 18 shop lots, a large exhibition centre measuring 100,000 sq feet and a hotel. It will be Ipoh’s one-stop footwear centre of eminence.
The proposed project is being undertaken by DSG Shuez Sdn Bhd from Bukit Mertajam and is endorsed by the Perak state government. Phase One is scheduled for completion in 2017 at a cost of RM30 million. The estimated cost for the overall project is RM100 million and eventual completion is expected by 2020.
A signing ceremony to officially kick-start the project was made at Syuen Hotel, Ipoh on Monday, August 25. The agreement was between the Perak Footwear Industry Association and the developer, DSG Shuez City Sdn Bhd. It was witnessed by Dato’ Dr Mah Hang Soon, who represented the Perak state government.