BALAD, Iraq (Army News Service, June 24, 2008) - A program began last week to spur business and progress in the Iraq provinces surrounding Joint Base Balad.
A ribbon-cutting June 17 officially opened the Iraqi-Based Industrial Zone, or I-BIZ, Service Center at Joint Base Balad, to be operated by the Basateen Al-Dejayl General Training and Contracting Company, ltd. The initiative is being spearheaded by the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Indiana Army National Guard.
"We are proud to call Iraqis our wonderful allies and we wish you the very, very best in your new venture," said Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard, said at the ceremony.
The center was selected as the first of several initiatives to provide local Iraqi business leaders with opportunities to tap into valuable military contracts, and provide a secure environment to grow their business.
In addition to the service center, which will provide maintenance for non-tactical vehicles owned by coalition forces, officials at Balad have plans for a host-nation business center, shipping container remanufacturing facility, industrial, wholesale, and retail facilities, and a vocational training program.
Brig. Gen. Gregory E. Couch, commander of the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, said the center will help "fulfill what Gen. Petraeus' dream was when he came here, and that is to get the Iraqi people the opportunity to work in their country and to take back the opportunity so they can support their own families. So this is the beginning of a great partnership and I too, as I'm getting ready to leave here, wish all great success to the Sheik and the rest of the Iraqi partners that join in on the IBIZ function," he said.
Sheik Shihab Ahmed Saleh Al-Tamimi, owner of Basateen Al-Dejayl General Training and Contracting Company, ltd., signed an agreement to operate the service center. He said that he is encourage by the outreach efforts by coalition forces.
"This is a very important business opportunity for the people of the area. It provides employment opportunities for the people of the area around here to stop them from joining terrorist organizations," said Sheik Shihab.
"Our vision for the future for this business opportunity is to expand from vehicle maintenance to engine repair, military and civilian vehicles," said Sheik Shihab. "We hope that we meet all the standards and we add more job opportunities out there for the people around LSA Anaconda. This business also sends a message to the terrorist organizations out there that we're willing to work with the coalition forces and help our country become a free country," he said.
Col. Courtney Carr, 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team commander, said the initiative is tied to a theater-wide initiative to drive business and economic prosperity to the local economy. Significant improvements in the security of the local area, led by local Iraqi leaders, are the key he said that allows pursuit of these economic opportunities.
"We want to support Iraqi business so they can flourish throughout the regions," said Carr. "The types of businesses we have selected to support are the types of businesses that can provide products and services that are needed at the base and that can also prosper outside the base."
Coalition forces expect, and in some cases have already received, dividends in return for investments made in the IBIZ initiative.
Col. Kenneth Newlin, deputy brigade commander and I-BIZ program director, sees the program as a natural progression of security and stability operations.
"The leaders and centers of influence that we are partnering with in establishing these businesses have the ability to influence economic progress and prosperity in Iraq. This program allows us to consolidate recent security gains made in the region by the local and national government that a year ago would not have been possible," said Newlin.
In addition to the service center, which will provide maintenance for non-tactical vehicles owned by coalition forces, Balad has plans for a host-nation business center, shipping container remanufacturing facility, an industrial, wholesale, and retail facilities, and a vocational training program.