A 22-strong delegation representing 17 local companies will arrive in Erbil on Sunday on the first Invest Northern Ireland organised trade mission to Kurdistan.
The companies, drawn from a broad range of local industries, will be meeting potential customers and community leaders in Kurdistan’s key business centre of Erbil during the week-long mission.
The trade delegation is also being advised and assisted by the Kurdistan Regional Authority, which organised a visit to Belfast last year and is planning to bring a full scale business mission to Northern Ireland during 2011. Belfast Metropolitan College is also taking part in the mission.
Apart from CDE Global and TES, both from Cookstown, and FG Wilson, all the companies and Belfast Metropolitan College are visiting Kurdistan for the first time. They will be exploring business opportunities in an Iraqi region regarded as the most secure and stable, which is now investing extensively in rebuilding its infrastructure, including roads, airports and ports, and to acquire the technology from the US and Europe.
Five of the companies are also taking part in their first Invest NI trade mission. They are: Hamilton Erskine, Ballygowan; Omni Architects, Bangor; P. Clarke, Lisnaskea; AH Design, Belfast and Semple and McKillop, Belfast.
The mission also includes several companies with significant business in the Arabian Gulf and other Middle East markets such as McCloskey International, Coalisland; Minerva NI, Belfast; Rapid International, Tandragee; SRS Finlay, Ballygawley and Terra Solutions, Newry.
Dr Vicky Kell, Invest NI Trade Director, said: “Kurdistan, the northern region of Iraq, is one of the new and rapidly growing markets that we have targeted particularly for our hugely important construction industry which is experiencing serious difficulties in the UK and Ireland.
“Construction projects are expanding strongly across Kurdistan as the regional authority seeks to rebuild its infrastructure, hospitals, schools, residential accommodation and transport facilities.
“Investment is also underway to upgrade its telecoms and IT services throughout a region which boasts one of the most pro-business environments in the Middle East. Indeed, experts suggest that the Kurdistan economy will grow by almost eight per cent this year.
“Our market research and contacts with the Kurdistan Regional Authority have enabled us to pinpoint opportunities for our mission members, which have significant expertise particularly in construction, building equipment and security, and to line-up meetings for participants.
“Kurdistan is also a region where English is widely spoken, that is immensely keen to do business with us in terms of trade, technology transfer and joint ventures. It is rich in natural resources including oil and gas and other minerals. The region also provides a good springboard to other parts of Iraq.”