Attendance high at convention to attract contractors to Iraq

Approximately 250 contractors and business owners gathered at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas June 2-3 for a government-sponsored convention on job opportunities in Iraq.

Attendance at the convention, which was co-sponsored by the Army and the Department of Commerce, was unexpectedly high, and attendees were generally optimistic. Despite media reports of violence contractor deaths in Iraq, many of the event’s attendees were more interested in the money to be made in the country. Participants said it’s important to them to get some of the $18.4 billion left in contracts before it’s too late.

“There’s a risk for everything,” Don Washington, a business owner from Aurora, Colo., told The Washington Post. “But the greater the risk, the greater the reward.”

According to the Department of Commerce, between 10 percent and 23 percent of the reconstruction funds is supposed to be spent with small and disadvantaged businesses. The Office of Small and Disadvantaged Businesses said the purpose of the conference was to provide a forum for small companies to receive information on opportunities to rebuild Iraq.

The program included an overview of ongoing and future construction and non-construction efforts for small business projects in Iraq. Speakers at the conference, including Mark Lumer, deputy assistant secretary of the Army’s Office of Policy and Procurement, did not speak much of the dangers involved in the work. But conference participants didn’t question the threat either.

“You are here to help us build a free and democratic Iraq,” Lumer said in a speech. “Congress has appropriated billions of dollars for us to do that and we need your help.”

As a cautionary, however, The Department of Commerce stated contractors need to have a game plan when going to Iraq, and their company needs to have had experience with exporting or working on projects abroad. To assist with logistics such as how to get a visa and how to get to and do business in Iraq, The Commerce Department has published a FAQ sheet titled “Doing Business in Iraq.” To read the fact sheet online, click the link to the right.