By Staff Sgt. Les Newport
76th Infantry Brigade
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq – "There's an excitement here... and that's exactly what we need."
That is the message sent to coalition forces, local Iraqi government and business owners, and Iraqi press representatives by Brig. Gen. Nicholas Matern, deputy commander of Multi-National Corps – Iraq, near the end of a much anticipated media day at Joint Base Balad. The Canadian flag officer thanked 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Soldiers and base Airmen supporting local Iraqi government and helping business leaders forge new economic opportunities.
Matern, along with other high-ranking coalition officials, made the trip to JBB to attend ceremonies celebrating the opening of two new facilities: an Iraqi-Based Industrial Zone asphalt plant and a business center to respond to administrative needs of local Iraqi businesses.
The IBIZ asphalt facility will provide employment for scores of Iraqis, particularly members of the Sons of Iraq that are standing down in wake of security gains. The manufacturing and paving crews will be able to provide profoundly needed services for local Iraqi infrastructure projects as well the installation.
Akeel Najy Marhoon, owner of the Balad Alkema Factory, was awarded the land use agreement to operate the asphalt facility on Joint Base Balad. Hamad Hamood Shekti, Governor of Salah Ad Din province and many other Iraqi officials joined Mr. Marhoon to celebrate the opening.
Gov. Shekti also joined coalition forces in the opening of the Host Nation Business Center. HNBC will provide a forward location to register Iraqi companies into the joint contingency contracting system. Once registered, Iraqi businesses can begin the process of seeking contract opportunities.
The center will provide an easily accessible resource for companies to review open requests for quotes on a bid board and compete for coalition contracts.
"In every sense, all the different sections of IBIZ helps build releationships, deal with issues and also to establish new relationships and influence money into the economy," said Capt. Mark Calhoun, a Chicago, Ill., resident and HNBC project officer, 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
"Contracts is the word we need to help them understand... right?" said Matern to I-BIZ project managers.
Matern congratulated Marhoon and other I-BIZ contractors attending the ceremony for their commitment not only to building more economic opportunities for Iraqis, but for their patriotic sense of duty for their country.
The asphalt factory is the latest facility in a complex of IBIZ initiatives at JBB. To date, Iraqis have launched a shipping container repair facility, automotive service center and recycling operation. A bicycle repair shop, appliance resell center, and Iraqi cuisine restaurants are in the works. Warka Bank is also opening a branch at JBB to facilitate financial transactions.
The progress, which has grown out of strategic partnerships with local Iraqis, gained attention from a more robust national and local Iraqi media contingent than previously witnessed.
"It's clear the country has a sophisticated and increasingly significant media presence," said Brig. Gen. Brian Bishop, Joint Base Balad installation commander. "This is an Iraqi solution to an Iraqi challenge -- delivering important news and information to the Iraqi people."
More than 20 photographers and reporters trained their cameras on center stage, as they celebrated Iraqi success, said Bishop. "A healthy press is a promising sign for any developing democracy."
This work, Iraqi-based Industrial Zone opens two new facilities in Balad, by SSG Les Newport, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.