Unlike most foreign companies operating in Kurdistan today, Sigma International Construction’s relationship with the region goes back far enough to have witnessed its transformation from a war-torn place in need of basic housing to a stable and prosperous area.
A square in Erbil, Kurdistan, one of the
world’s ancient cities, which is rapidly rebuilding
Photo: Susan Mohammad
The Virginia-based construction firm is currently building 310 luxury villas in the suburbs of Erbil (each unit sells at an average cost of $250,000), Kurdistan’s main city. Back in the early 1990s, it was building bridges and schools under Operation Safe Haven. An Iraqi company at the time — it became a U.S. firm in 2003 — Sigma was helping to reconstruct the region after international forces created a “no-fly zone” to protect the Kurds from Saddam Hussein’s aerial assaults.
Damien Degueldre, spokesman for Sigma International Construction, said the company decided to go back into the Kurdistan region in Iraq’s north in 2006, because the investment laws being drafted by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) created good opportunities for foreign companies.
The region is stable and a smooth visa process to access Kurdistan is another plus, said Degueldre. “Nowadays, you can also say the improved infrastructure, such as the international airport with multi-connection flights, international standard hotels, roads, power supply and international schools, are also advantages of working in the area.”
Kurdistan has come a long way in six years. Degueldre recalled the company having difficulty finding the right AC contractors or roofing specialists. Sigma had to bring in technicians from the United States and Lebanon to train local employees.
“We also faced issues at the beginning of [our current] project securing proper materials as the local market was insufficiently supplied, mostly with cheaper products,” said Degueldre. “[However] there has been a real change … as international suppliers entered the market.”
Before a construction boom in Erbil began forcing Kurdistan’s main city to grow in all directions, another hurdle the company faced was convincing locals the suburban location of the villas — just over nine miles from the Erbil International Airport — wasn’t too far away. Construction on the Western-style villas (the planned neighborhood is called the Khanzad American Village) is scheduled for completion at the end of this year.
Despite the obvious challenges that come with rebuilding a region at such a rapid pace, Degueldre said foreign companies should not wait too long to get into Kurdistan. “Come and participate now. You should no longer hesitate because the region is changing — it’s improving rapidly and you are welcome here.”