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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Wolfhounds Work To Secure Economic Success

By Spc. Mike Alberts
3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs

HAWIJAH, Iraq, May 7, 2007 — The local government approves a building project and provides the land. Local businesses supply the materials. Residents perform the work, and the community reaps the short-term and long-term economic benefits.

Several months ago, that was a vision for economic success in this predominantly Sunni Arab town. Now, with the assistance of coalition forces, that vision of the future is becoming reality in Hawijah, Iraq.

On April 24, coalition force representatives of 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, conducted the final pre-construction meeting for the Hawijah Industrial Park Security Wall -- the “HIP Wall” -- at Forward Operating Base McHenry, Hawija, Iraq.

The HIP Wall is a more than one million dollar, three-phased public works construction project. The concrete block and chain-link fenced barrier will separate Hawijah’s primary industrial businesses from other mixed-use properties, according to Capt. Jeffrey Fuller, fire support officer for 2-27.

“The HIP Wall is very similar in concept to barriers in large industrial areas in the United States that are gated or fenced and that separate industry from residential areas,” said Fuller. “In Hawijah, it will not only provide businesses with a more secure place to operate, but will also offer residents a safer place to work.”

When 3rd Brigade’s Wolfhounds arrived last fall, they quickly realized that they needed to find a way to infuse money into the Hawijah economy in a way that would be accepted by the local population. So they listened.

“We wanted to focus on long-term economic development that would equate to employing a lot of residents, so we began to have conversations with local business leaders,” Fuller said.

“We learned that several of the more prominent businessmen in the area were already talking about how they could bring more jobs and industry into the city. The only thing really holding them back was security.”

The Wolfhounds offered the concept of the HIP Wall and the local city council, government officials and business leaders embraced it. The result will be the first joint, cooperative government and local business effort in Hawijah.

The wall will secure cotton and cinder block factories, as well as several other existing businesses that will be housed together. It is anticipated that the factories will employ more than 250 local residents and will generate products that Hawija can export to other parts of Iraq and beyond.

“This is the first of many steps to moving economic development forward in Hawijah,” said Maj. Brian Payne, executive officer for 2-27. “The wall will truly be a symbol of the start of a new era for the people of Hawijah,” he continued.

Payne cautioned, however, that whether the concept ultimately succeeds will depend on its acceptance by local residents, a conclusion reiterated by the project’s general contractor.

“Great efforts have been made for this project to be one for the people of Hawijah, constructed by the people of Hawijah. For that reason, we plan on hiring all labor for this project from Hawijah,” said engineer Ali, the general contractor’s representative at the final pre-construction meeting. The 29-year-old civil engineer is cautiously optimistic about the project’s success.

The biggest challenge will be showing the people that it is a project by them and for them. Without their acceptance, its future will be in jeopardy. But we have really done everything we can.”

Photo: U.S. Army Capt. Jeffrey Fuller (left), fire support officer, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and Maj. Brian Payne (center), executive officer from the same team, discuss final construction plans with a general contractor’s representative for the Hawija Industrial Park security wall project at Forward Operating Base McHenry, Hawijah, Iraq, April 25, 2007. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Mike Alberts.

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