BALAD, Iraq - Iraqi business owners hosted Coalition forces and members of the Balad Provincial Reconstruction Team Saturday to discuss expansion of local businesses using Iraqi trucking initiatives in a combined effort to boost the local economy here.

The owner of the Balad Canning Factory provided leaders from 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary); 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment; Multi-National Corps-Iraq; Multi-National Forces-Iraq and the Salah ad Din PRT a tour of his business and a local market to better understand the potential for growth in the Balad area. The ultimate objective was to forge a partnership that harnesses the 3rd ESC's logistics expertise of national and regional Iraqi trucking initiatives to rapidly expand existing local businesses by allowing them to market and distribute their products across Iraq.

"As you increase your ability to distribute your products, your customers will be able to come to you to purchase goods- and you can increase your production by shipping throughout Iraq. I think your products can go a lot further, by increasing the trucking capability." said Col. Curt Higdon, 3rd ESC assistant chief of staff G3, during an exchange with Mr. Ahmed Ibrahim Aghab - owner of Balad Canning Factory.

According to Higdon, the Balad Canning Factory is a prime example of an existing Iraqi business that could rapidly expand if partnered with national distribution efforts such as the Iraqi Trucking Network or regional ones like Iraqi Trucking Companies. Higdon hopes to couple the ESC's logistics and distribution expertise, the local PRT's economic knowledge, and 3rd Sqdn, 4th Cav's community engagement skills to help determined Iraqi business owners continue their economic momentum.

Currently, the factory is operating only 4 of 12 production lines due to a lack of trucking assets and ongoing renovation. The factory has new boilers and is capable of producing bagged snacks, bottled water, and milk in addition to canned goods. Adding a reliable trucking partnership will allow the factory to reach its potential; bringing jobs and a reliable buyer of fresh local produce to the community.

"Some of these folks don't have the means to move their goods," said Lt. Col. David M. Hodne, commander of 3rd Sqdn, 4th Cav. Later this spring Hodne and his cavalry troopers plan to work with farmers in rural areas around Balad and the canning factory to expand markets for local agricultural products to multiple regions across Iraq.

Balad Satellite Provincial Reconstruction Team Leader Joe Pinon added that investments such as those made at the canning factory are critical for building economic momentum. Iraqis need to be educated on the importance of investing in their own economy to sustain future growth, said Pinon.

The opportunity to partner with the canning factory surfaced during an Iraqi Business Industrial Zone (IBIZ) meeting where members of the 3rd ESC in discussion with the local PRT realized too few jobs were being created that would provide for long term economic gain of the local populace.

The independently owned and operated canning factory employs approximately 150 -200 people but the potential exist to expand production and provide another 1000 jobs with the right partnerships.

Troopers of the 3rd Sqdn. 4th Cav. have already assisted the community and facilitated development of the factory. When introduced to the idea of a trucking partnership, unit leadership quickly incorporated the concept into their existing economic plan.

All partners hope that future planning efforts between eager Iraqis, battle space owners, logistics experts - coupled with the PRT's ability to organize businessmen and local political leaders will provide the opportunity for increased agriculture and economic development throughout the region.

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Page last updated Wed January 28th, 2009 at 03:38