Kirkuk commerce expected to get boost from new project
June 30, 2009
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq-A Soldier with business experience worked with the Kirkuk, Iraq, Chamber of Commerce June 18 to connect local consumers and investors with Kirkuk business leaders.
The project was developed and proposed by Master Sgt. Felipe Azua, of Plainview, Texas, and a team chief with Company B, 490th Civil Affairs Battalion. Azua, who has owned his own business for the past 12 years, saw the need for an economic boost in the province.
According to Azua, the project will involve developing a database of all local businesses and provide business names, products, managers, points of contact and information on whether or not the business is looking for internal or foreign investors. The information will then be made available on a website which anyone interested in Kirkuk's businesses and industries can access.
Azua and Cpt. Juan Cantu, a Houston native and a civil military operations officer for 3rd Bn., 82nd Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, met with Kirkuk City Chamber of Commerce Director Sabah Alden Mohammed Salih al Salhi and members of Citadel, an Iraqi communications company hired to implement the project, to discuss plans for the project.
"This project is important to the people of Kirkuk," Azua said. "Contractors will be able to go to the website and find local businesses that sell products they need to complete projects. We want Iraqi money to stay in Iraq."
The goal of the project, according to Azua, is to aid the local economy by promoting Kirkuk's businesses to local consumers, contractors, and Iraqi and foreign investors. He said a large portion of money is lost to foreign businesses every day. Consumers purchase products from outside of Iraq because they are not aware of local business assets available to them.
Al Salhi said the Chamber of Commerce is ready to assist and support any project that will assist Kirkuk Province.
"We want good things for Kirkuk, and this is a very good idea," al Salhi said. "This project will lead to improvements and allow the Chamber of Commerce to help merchants. We'll be able to educate people and help them become familiar with manufacturers and also make it easier to communicate with foreign investors and local companies."
The Citadel will conduct an in depth analysis of each business in Kirkuk, to include its strengths and weaknesses, and then include a database of information gathered from the assessment, which will be made available on a website. Upon completion of the project, the database will be turned over to the Kirkuk Chamber of Commerce, who can then use it to develop want ad listings, look for investors, and create business networks.
According to Azua, the Chamber of Commerce currently has 426 businesses registered in Kirkuk, but their offices estimate actual businesses in the area number several thousand.
"Every business must be registered with the Chamber of Commerce," said Cantu. The whole country is in a rebuild phase and many business owners don't know the basics of the business infrastructure."
Cantu said the project should help stimulate the economy and create a better life for residents, now and in the future.
The project, estimated to cost in the range of $240,000 - $280,000, will be paid for with Commander's Emergency Response Program funds. The Citadel will employ 42 Kirkuk residents broken down into eight teams, from managers to data entry clerks, for the duration of the project.
With the Kirkuk Chamber of Commerce now approving the project, Citadel should have the project completed within six months. Azua hopes the project can be a model for other areas of the country.