CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq -- The Ramadi Glass Works Factory, which was once the second largest employer in western Iraq’s Al Anbar province, is slowly coming back to life.
The factory’s management is working with coalition forces to gradually reopen the plant, which was closed last November after insurgents used the factory to stage attacks. Due to its key role in the local economy, both groups have pushed to open the facility, which also includes a ceramics factory.
“It employs 2,300 people and the way we look at it - those are 2,300 families affected,” said Lt. Col. Scott E. Lystad, operations officer, 5th Civil Affairs Group.
The factories produce sheet glass used for tabletops, bottles, windows and other ceramic and glass consumer products. Half of Iraq’s sheet glass demands will be supplied from the factory, which stood through a long process of rebuilding of its facilities and workforce, according Lystad.
Workers once commuted as much as 50 kilometers to work at the plant, which was partially reopened on May 2. The glass works alone employed 1,900 and the ceramics factory had 400 employees.
For the first five weeks there were no more than 10 to 15 workers in the plants per day. But for the past few months, the factories have employed upwards of 200 workers per day to get the operation up and running.
“Progress has been slow, but steady,” said Lystad, a Brea, Calif., resident. “We expect to get back to full employment in the next 60 days.”
One of the primary concerns for reopening the plant was ensuring that the factory had effective security in place so employees had a safe work environment and insurgents do not return.
“A trained security force was very important,” said Lystad, who explained that local Iraqi Security Forces were coordinating with the glass factory guards on measures such as checkpoints and access to the facility.
Iraqi leaders played a key role in negotiating the reopening with coalition forces, according to Lystad. The provincial government and local leaders worked closely with the 2nd Marine Division to find ways to get more Iraqis back to work.
More projects like this are on the horizon as the provincial government is prioritizing its needs with the assistance of the 2nd Marine Division and CAG. The government recently started a Provincial Reconstruction Development Committee, which is the approving authority on reconstruction projects in Al Anbar province and is chaired by Governor Mamoun Sami Rasheed.
The ultimate goal is to get all 2,300 employees back to work and to help revive the local economy.
“We want the Al Anbar province to be vibrant and prosperous,” said Lystad.