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New hope for Baghdad shop owners

By Capt. Mark Miller , 1st Infantry Division

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An Iraqi businessman waits as local officials, Iraqi security forces and Coalition Soldiers check his paperwork, Feb. 20, before providing a ,500 grant to help kick-start his business in Saydiyah. (U.S.Army photo by Capt. Mark Miller)
An Iraqi businessman waits as local officials, Iraqi security forces and Coalition Soldiers check his paperwork, Feb. 20, before providing a ,500 grant to help kick-start his business in Saydiyah. (U.S.Army photo by Capt. Mark Miller)

March 7, 2008 — BAGHDAD (March 6, 2008) — Money is always a concern for those running a business. Start-up capital is one of the most difficult obstacles for entrepreneurs starting a new business in the United States because the businesses often do not have enough capitol to stay above water.

Iraqi shop owners on Spruce Street in northern Saydiyah know and understand this problem as well; on, Feb. 20, they lined up to receive micro-grants from soldiers of 4th Battalion, 64th Armored Regiment, attached to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad.

Seven shop owners were provided grants, totaling $17,500. Another 13 grants, totaling $32,500, were provided to shop owners later in the week.

“Each grant is for $2,500 and is intended to allow shop owners the freedom to purchase supplies or make improvements to their businesses,” said Staff Sgt. Ray Moore of Elgin, S.C., who serves as the non-commissioned officer in charge of civil military operations projects for the 4-64 Armored Regt.

The Spruce Street market area is coming back to life, he said, with local residents moving back to the area. Stores are reopening and getting off the ground again, but shop owners are in need of funds to make repairs in addition to purchasing more stock.

This is where the coalition forces micro-grant program comes in. Micro-grants are cash grants provided by coalition forces to assist in kick starting a free market economy.

The grants are designed to stimulate economic growth at the lowest level, said Capt. David Cox, a Winchester, Va., native, who serves as a 4-64 Armored Regt. civil military affairs officer.

“You can’t start an economy from the top,” he said. “It just doesn’t work.”

As this and other programs like it continue to progress, it is hoped Iraqis will have the opportunity to successfully fund their own businesses and compete fairly in a new free market economy.