BAGHDAD - The small, wooden model of a gazebo housed a pair of plastic action figures. Flanked by painted wooden replicas of T-walls and Jersey barriers on one side, a miniature office desk and bunk bed on the other, it dominated a display of products provided by the Barakat al-Taqqadum company, an Iraqi construction and supply firm that took part in Victory Regional Contracting Center's Vendor Fair, Feb. 13.

The toy soldiers hanging out in a scaled down smoke shack stood out among the exhibits by 156 local Iraqi vendors who came to Camp Liberty Field House hoping to do business with United States Forces-Iraq. Vendors, among them 27 female business owners, had goods and services ranging from gravel samples to leather holsters and multimedia presentations on display for the swarm of contracting officers looking to help supply their Soldiers and Airmen.

According to Maj. Humberto Jones, the chief contracting officer with the VRCC, a major goal of the fair was to allow Iraqi businesses a face-to-face chance to prove to United States military contracting officers that they can provide goods and services at a level of quality on par with companies from the U.S. or around the world.

"You're used to getting certain quality of goods back in the States. When you come to Iraq, sometimes you don't get that same quality," Jones said. "What we've done is gone out there and chased after some of the local vendors that can produce that same type of quality."

Convincing American Servicemembers that Iraqis can produce quality goods and services is only part of the equation. Increasing contracts with Iraqi companies is a long-standing mandate for contracting centers that was recently reinforced in a memo from Gen. Ray Odierno, the commanding general of USF-I. In the Jan. 31 memo, he stated that "employment of Iraqis not only saves money but it also strengthens the Iraqi economy and helps eliminate the root causes of the insurgency - poverty and lack of economic opportunity."

Mohammed Al Shara, a U.S. citizen from Detroit who was born and educated in Iraq, now works as a business development consultant with the VRCC. He noted that the focus on awarding contracts to the Iraqi vendors injects money into the Iraqi market because the vendors will hire Iraqi labor and build the value of the Iraqi dinar. Al Shara added that such companies provide an additional asset to the new Iraq business community, bringing with them experience in dealing with companies from foreign countries.

Maythem Al-Asdi is an example of the success a contractor can have. He has been doing business for five years as a construction contractor with the U.S. military and the United States Agency for International Development. He said he has learned management processes for his company through training provided by the VRCC.

The opportunity to talk directly to potential clients at the Vendor Fair was appreciated by Al Asdi. "Interaction teaches you so many things,' he said. "Before this vendors didn't have many events where they could interact with Americans."

Al Asdi sees events like this as a way to improve the future of his country. "My hope is if we can duplicate the American dream, we can have the Iraqi dream."

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