How did SB Özel Group’s story begin in the Kurdistan Region?
In the early 2000s, we saw that there was a serious lack of metal in the Kurdistan Region. The whole Kurdistan Region, and Erbil in particular, was in the process of being heavily rebuilt. The infrastructure here was, across the board, in need of total repair. However, iron and steel were so scarce here that they really were almost like precious metals. We wanted to help find an effective solution to the lack of resources here. So, we began importing iron and steel into the region. However, there were some governmental obstacles that really complicated the process. We sometimes had problems even obtaining nuts and bolts for simple projects. As a result, it became apparent that we needed some form of a concrete solution. So, in 2006, we decided to open the only steel factory in Erbil. At that time, it turned out to be the only factory of any kind in the city.

What problems did you encounter in terms of establishing the steel factory?
When we decided to build the factory here in Erbil, we encountered a very big problem right away: there was no electricity. The maximum amount of electricity that the municipality could supply at that time was equivalent to two hours. There was no way that we could run an entire factory on two hours of power. So, we developed a solution, which was to build our own power plant to provide electricity for the steel manufacturing process. Completion of both the factory and the power plant took approximately two years, so the factory did not actually begin production until 2007. It was a very challenging process, and, as I said before, we were the only ones here attempting a project like this. We still are. Other companies are currently trying to establish similar factories, but for now, we’re the only one here. More than anything, I think our biggest success was that we were able to solve our own problem, create a localized source of electricity, and contribute to the overall infrastructure of the city.

Is Erbil Steel Company able to satisfy the needs of the region?
Currently, we are able to satisfy about 40% to 50% of the demand for steel here in the Kurdistan Region. However, we have plans to increase our overall capacity.

So increasing production capacity your main priority?
We would like to increase the capacity of Erbil Steel factory. However, I have some concerns about doing so. At the moment, the core material for steel production has been scrap metal. There has been enough scrap metal available in Erbil to keep production running smoothly. To increase our capacity, we would have to increase our area of operation. We are not yet at the point where we feel that is a prudent move, so for now, the factory’s capacity will remain where it is. Instead, we have turned our attention to the completion of the Gulan Park Project, which is itself a massive project.

Currently, we are able to satisfy about 40% to 50% of the demand for steel here in the Kurdistan Region. However, we have plans to increase our overall capacity.

Can you give us some of the details regarding the current plans for the Gulan Park Project, in terms of what it will offer to the city of Erbil?
The project will have four multi-story towers. Two of the towers will be office buildings, one will be a residential building, and the fourth will be a franchise hotel. The complex will also contain a shopping mall. Our goal is to make the foreigners who come here to Kurdistan feel at ease. That’s our target audience. So, all four towers will be outfitted to allow our residents to live and work in complete comfort. We’ve just signed an agreement with a very famous global hotel chain to occupy the fourth tower. In the near future, we will be making the details of that partnership public.

How is the project progressing at the moment?
We began construction in October 2010. However, we had to suspend the project due problems related to regional infrastructure. The municipality had difficulty obtaining domestic water for us to use in both construction and operation. Basically, they told us that they would not be able to obtain water resources for two years. As a result, we had to find our own solution to the water issue. Until we could find one, we suspended construction. We were able to reinitiate construction in 2012 by installing water tanks to ensure that our facility always has the best possible quality of water. The completion date of the project is 2014.

Do you think the solutions for problems such as these should come from the private sector, the government, or a combination of the two working together?
Of course, the private sector or individual companies can try to find solutions for some of these issues. For example, look at the water issue. Right now, everyone utilizes wells. What happens when that supply runs out? What will people do? That’s what we’re trying to deal with right now. We are trying to identify realistic solutions that we can use but that everyone else can also utilize. However, I don’t believe that these are individual problems; they are issues experienced by many people here in Kurdistan. So, the problems require concrete, innovative solutions that can really only be implemented by the government.