Business Rebuilds in a Thriving City in Iraq

Golden Eagle Global
The New York Times
Mon, Oct 14, 2013

by Michael T. Luongo

Erbil, the political and business capital of the Kurdish region in the north of Iraq, is becoming an alternative to Iraq’s southern provinces to tap into the country’s oil wealth and other business opportunities.

Thanks in part to stability, the Kurdish economy has grown at about 10 percent annually in recent years. Enormous construction projects are changing its landscape. Among the largest developments is Empire City, which is estimated to be completed in 2017, and will give Erbil a skyline resembling a small-scale Dubai.

Plans call for dozens of towers, many above 30 stories, and 300 villas, with more than 13 million square feet of space, representing a $2.3 billion investment. Marathon, Chevron, Total, Hunt and other oil companies have already signed deals at Empire City.

But Empire City is just one example of what has been a highly effective campaign by Kurdish leaders to make Erbil a haven for Western business.

The hotel industry is expanding to serve the increase in business activity. Marriott, for example, the first American hotel chain in Erbil, is part of the Empire City development and is scheduled to open a hotel in 2015. Best Western, Kempinski, Hilton and other international chains are also planning hotels in Erbil.

Airlines have also increased the number of flights going to the city. In 2010, a new terminal was opened at Erbil International Airport, bringing the airport up to Western standards and representing a physical and symbolic change for the city.

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