KIRKUK, Iraq -- As security improves in Kirkuk, the business community is better able to grow. To grow, some small businesses need some help.

U.S. forces issue micro-grants in sums of up to $5,000 to assist Iraqi small business owners build or revitalize their businesses. Approximately 30 days after the micro-grants are issued; U.S. troops will follow up to assess the progress of these businesses.

1st Lt. Daniel Braud, a Kingwood, Texas native and platoon leader in 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, set out to review several micro-grants in the Iraqi city of Daquq in Kirkuk province, July 7.

"After the micro-grants are issued, that isn't the last step," Braud said. "We need to verify the funds are being used in the manner that they [Iraqi business owners] stated on their applications and also check on the progress their businesses have made."

The first shop Braud stopped at was owned by Salar Ghazi Fauzi, who owns an automotive repair shop. According to Salar, the funds helped him purchase equipment to better run his business.

"I was able to buy an air compressor and generator," Salar said.

Salar explained the compressor allows him to use an impact socket wrench that helps remove bolts faster; improving his efficiency, which means more business. And the generator lets him stay open longer, because he is less reliant on public electricity.

Gahandai Kyiani Ghiden works as a real estate sales agent in Daquq, and was able to purchase fax machines and laptops in order to list the homes he sells.

"Now that the homes are advertised there is a better chance to reach potential buyers," Gahandai said.

A cell phone store owned by Ali Abbas Muhsin displayed cell phones and accessories from wall-to-wall. Ali used his grant to not only add a new floor and ceiling, but is now able to activate the cell phones in his business via laptops he purchased for this function.

Ali explained that before receiving a grant his customers had to wait for him to get to a computer and activate their phone numbers.

Micro-grants have so far helped shop owners in Daquq open shops ranging from shoe repair to window makers and, according to Braud, all were up and running during his assessment.

"Getting the local economy up and running is an important part of stability in this region," Braud explained.

While Braud was conducting his assessment, several Daquq residents approached him about applying for their own micro-grants.

"Many times they [Iraqis] will see the progress of their fellow citizens and want to take part as well, so we get approached about how they can take part in the program," Braud said.

Braud said he will be accepting applications for micro-grants in a week or two.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16