Najaf Factory to Make Garments for
U.S., International Retailers

By Gerry J. Gilmore

A garment factory in Najaf, Iraq, will start supplying clothes to U.S. and international retailers in a few months, a senior U.S. official said in Baghdad.

The Najaf facility is “one of the most state-of-the-art clothing factories I’ve seen,” Paul A. Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense for business transformation, told reporters at a Baghdad news conference. “It will be providing garments to American and international retail beginning this summer.”

The Najaf factory is but one of several economic success stories occurring across Iraq today, said Brinkley, who has been busy showing off the country’s promising economic potential to U.S. and foreign business representatives since December.

Brinkley also highlighted a Ramadi ceramics factory that’s in the process of having its electricity restored. That facility once employed 650 Iraqis and many of its former employees are “coming back to work there,” he said.

There are also plans to establish communications call centers in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region, which could “create an eventual pan-Arab customer-service capability similar to that which India provides the international community,” Brinkley said.

The Iraqi ministers of finance and industry are heavily involved in efforts to resuscitate Iraq’s economy “to create a bright, prosperous economic future for the people of Iraq,” Brinkley said. This endeavor, he pointed out, includes the reestablishment of privately owned businesses as well as getting moribund state-owned industries back onto their feet.

“Our effort extends to the private-sector businesses here, many of which, prior to 2003, sold their goods and services to the state-owned companies,” Brinkley said.

An Iraqi reporter quizzed Brinkley about restarting Iraq’s cement industry, noting that lack of electricity has been a problem. Brinkley acknowledged there’s been a challenge in restoring dependable electrical power to mineral processing and cement factories.

“Those mineral-processing industries, including cement, are huge consumers of electricity,” Brinkley pointed out, noting Iraq’s “extremely distressed” electrical grid needs an overhaul. Cement factories are especially susceptible to problems caused by a non-dependable power supply, he said. “If the electricity goes off, then you’ve got people with chisels chiseling cement out of huge machinery.”

For the time being, engineers are working around such issues by installing power generators at factories that use less electricity, Brinkley said. However, he acknowledged, such a solution wouldn’t work at mineral-processing and cement factories that require large amounts of electrical wattage.

Refurbishment of Iraq’s electrical grid “requires ongoing investment and collaboration between the ministries here, petroleum and electricity, in addition to partnerships that are ongoing in the construction efforts,” Brinkley explained. Significant power-generation projects are slated to go online this year as part of ongoing efforts to provide more electricity to Iraq’s people and businesses.

For example, the ceramics factory in Ramadi had been idled because of lack of electricity, Brinkley said. However, “we’ve now got the electricity restored and those people (will) go back to work.”

Regarding food, Brinkley noted “produce is pouring into Iraq from outside of Iraq.” Yet, Iraq’s agricultural potential should enable it to become “the bread basket of the Middle East,” he pointed out. Therefore, he said, much discussion is ongoing between U.S. and Iraqi officials to reestablish Iraq’s agricultural economy.

Brinkley said his travels across Iraq have made him realize that Iraqis want a better life for themselves and their children. Iraqi aspirations and hopes for the future include access to economic prosperity, he said.

“We believe we can create that prosperity, and we should create that prosperity in every place where stability takes hold,” Brinkley said. “And, this is underpinning the strategy of General (David H.) Petraeus and of the U.S. government to follow these areas where we reestablish stability with immediate economic uplift that creates a sense of hope where hope hasn’t existed.”