By Army Sgt. Grant Okubo
Special to American Forces Press Service
Sept. 4, 2008 - In another indication of a return to normalcy in eastern Baghdad, more than 90 organizations gathered Aug. 29 and 30 at the Palestine Hotel in the Iraqi capital's Rusafa district for the 9 Nissan District Business Trade Show. Participants included nongovernment organizations and more than 80 businesses that set up booths to display their products and services and to network with other local business owners.
Exhibitors represented businesses in retail sales, construction and durable and industrial goods. In addition to the exhibits, members of the district council, community leaders and the Baghdad 2 embedded provincial reconstruction team conducted a meeting during the event's second day.
The trade show is the third of its kind conducted in the 10th Mountain Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team operational environment in Multinational Division Baghdad. The other two economic events benefitted businesses in eastern Baghdad's Rusafa and Karadah districts.
The PRT and the Patriot Brigade supported the trade show to sponsor the Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which put together the event, Conrad Tribble, Baghdad-2 embedded PRT team chief, said. The trade show is a way for businesses to come together in a forum not normally available to them, the Los Angeles native explained.
"Trade shows aren't something you see often here, but it gets them out of their areas," Tribble said. "They start to see other suppliers, other competitors and other business contactors they can network with."
These are opportunities that companies in the United States often have to see how things are going, and now Iraqi businesses have them too, Tribble added.
"This is an opportunity for them to hear from their government – what their government is doing on reconstruction," he said. "It's an opportunity for them to talk to each other and find contacts and develop suppliers, customers and so forth."
Speaking with several local business owners, Tribble said, he has found that the businesses have grown during the past year, with the organizations hiring more people, doing more work and getting more contracts.
"That's a good sign, because it shows us that when you get security in place, which was done largely in this district, then lots of things can happen on the economic side," he said, adding that there is still a long way to go for businesses in 9 Nissan, but there is a lot of room to grow and plenty of time to do it.
Another positive and significant sign, he added, is the ability to conduct an event such as the trade show without security being an issue.
"This has been a very successful event," he said. "Just the fact that you have so many different businesses, government contacts [and] people off the street coming together, sort of wandering through, looking at what is going on with the business community at 9 Nissan.
"Obviously, it is one small part of a lot of different things that have to happen for the economy to grow, but this kind of event is the kind of thing that we can sponsor that we can help put on, and that is a good thing," he continued. "It's part of our contribution to help the Iraqi economy step up."
May Mohammed, human resources manager with IACCI, said she was pleased with the turnout, especially on the first day, when she estimated about 1,000 visitors attended the trade show. The local community in 9 Nissan is looking forward to development opportunities, as past regimes largely have ignored this area, she said.
In addition, Mohammed said, she believes the trade show will help many businesses in the area increase their visibility, because their owners have found many other private businesses in the area. Many business owners and organization representatives who participated in the 9 Nissan trade show realize the importance of the event.
"This show is a great opportunity for all the companies," said Ahmed Sameer, who works for a satellite company. "We can communicate with other companies; we can arrange business with other companies. It's something good. It's improving our country and improving our business."
Ali Tamimi, general manager for AT Generators Co., has seen his business improve throughout the past year and said he realizes how important an event like this is and that it arrives at a very important time for business in Iraq. It is a very important time for development for the future of Iraq, he added.
(Army Sgt. Grant Okubo serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 10th Mountain Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)