By Army Staff Sgt. Jason Douglas
Special to American Forces Press Service
Iraq, July 14, 2009 - As security improves in Kirkuk, the business community has the opportunity to grow. But some small businesses still need a helping hand. U.S. forces issue microgrants of up to $5,000 to help Iraqi small-business owners build or revitalize their businesses, and they follow up about 30 days later to assess progress.
Army 1st Lt. Daniel Braud, platoon leader for the 1st Cavalry Division's 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, set July 7 out to review several microgrants in the city of Daquq in Kirkuk province.
"After the microgrants are issued, that isn't the last step," Braud said. "We need to verify the funds are being used in the manner that [Iraqi business owners] stated on their applications, and also check on the progress their businesses have made."
Braud's first stop was to visit Salar Ghazi Fauzi, who owns an automotive repair shop. Fauzi said the funds helped him purchase an air compressor and a generator. The compressor allows him to use an impact
socket wrench that improves efficiency by removing bolts faster, Fauzi said. The generator allows him to stay open longer, he added, because he is less reliant on public electricity.
Gahandai Kyiani Ghiden works as a real estate sales agent in Daquq. He bought fax machines and laptops to list the homes he sells.
"Now that the homes are advertised, there is a better chance to reach potential buyers," Ghiden said.
Ali Abbas Muhsin, displays his wares from wall to wall in his cell phone store. Ali used his grant to add a new floor and ceiling and to purchase laptops used to activate the cell phones he sells. Before he got his grant, he said, his customers had to wait for him to get to a computer to activate their phones.
Microgrants have helped shop owners in Daquq open shops with services ranging from shoe repair to window making.
"Getting the local economy up and running is an important part of stability in this region," Braud said.
While Braud conducted his assessment, several Daquq
residents approached him about applying for their own microgrants.
"Many times, [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," he said, adding that he'll accept more applications soon.
(Army Staff Sgt. Jason Douglas serves with the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.