Over the past decade, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has seen significant growth. It is a beacon of stability in the region and offers foreign companies a major opportunity to access a wealth of untapped resources. However, due to its geographical location in Northern Iraq (between Iran and Syria with Baghdad to the south) safety concerns often trumped an interest to invest in the region.
After a comprehensive situation analysis, we found there were two major hurdles to attracting foreign investment:
- The U.S. government’s relationship with Iraq (specifically with Baghdad) made it difficult to build any sort of a relationship with the Kurdistan Region, in spite of obvious benefits (e.g. untapped resources, pro-American sentiment).
- With little to no on-the-ground relationships, companies lacked access and knowledge of the region, and quite frankly were afraid of the region.
To encourage investment and positive coverage of the region, we needed to convince companies that the time is now and the place is Kurdistan – there is no better option. In 2011, we conceptualized and launched the U.S.-Kurdistan Business Council, a 501(c)(6), non-profit trade association based in Washington, D.C. This organization is dedicated to facilitating trade and commerce for U.S. companies in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. To support the USKBC’s mission, Qorvis MSLGROUP traveled to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and worked with government officials to prepare messaging and media train them to effectively communicate benefits of, and opportunities for, investment in the region. Qorvis MSLGROUP planned and executed trade and government delegations to and from Kurdistan. In addition, we created opportunities to set up private sector networking opportunities with the American and Kurdish business communities. Qorvis MSLGROUP also conducted an aggressive media outreach campaign on behalf of the Prime Minister and President of the Region.
In addition to recruiting new members to the business council, Qorvis MSLGROUP has facilitated discussions between the USKBC members and top ranking officials in the Kurdish and American governments. These and other meetings have afforded USKBC member companies an inside look at the thought process within the U.S. State Department, the Administration, and on the Hill, in addition to how the government of the Kurdistan region plans to move forward in making the Kurdistan region an appealing option for investors in the Middle East. As of 2014, foreign investment in Kurdistan had topped USD$ 5.5 billion.