UPDATE: New Richmond business welcomes Iraqi ambassadorIraq's ambassador to the United States, Samir Sumaidaie, visited a New Richmond, Wis. business on Friday, April 1.
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
Iraq’s ambassador to the United States, Samir Sumaidaie, visited a New Richmond business on Friday, April 1.
Ellicott Dredge Enterprises of Baltimore, the manufacturing plant known as Liquid Waste Technology LLC/Ellicott Dredge in New Richmond, played host the the Iraqi dignitary for much of the morning. Company officials provided Sumaidaie with a tour of the facility, along with some general information about the company.
According to Jim Pflueger, general manager of LWT, the Iraq government is one of the local company’s customers. Iraq currently has an order for new dredges with LWT, which will be used to clear rivers and irrigation canals in the Middle Eastern county, will soon be shipped overseas.
“This is exciting,” Pflueger said of the high-level visit. “It’s a little nerve-racking, but we like to entertain. We like to show off what we do and we’re proud of this facility.”
Since opening its new production plant in New Richmond in 2008, LWT has grown in building size and employee numbers. The local facility now employs 70 people and is looking to hire even more in the immediate future to meet demand.
The company does business around the world, including selling dredge units in Africa, Asia, India and the Middle East.
Paul Quinn, vice president of sales for Ellicott, said Iraq has purchased numerous dredges and weed harvesters since the company started doing business with that country. The newest large dredges, which will be used to clear rivers and irrigation canals in the Middle Eastern county, will soon be shipped overseas. Sumaidaie was able to inspect the new units as they were being worked on by LWT employees.
Quinn said the dredges and weed harvesters are important to Iraq because waterways in that part of the world fill up quickly with silt runoff. Drinking water supplies and navigation lanes can be cut off if action isn’t taken, he said. Water flow in agricultural irrigation channels is also improved through dredging.
A number of LWT’s dredges are stationed on the Tigris River in Baghdad, working constantly to ensure the city’s drinking water supply flows freely.
The dredges also work to remove silt near the country’s hydroelectric dams.
Iraq’s waterways were neglected under Saddam Hussein’s regime, Quinn noted, but they are now being kept open with dredging efforts.
“We work with the Ministry of Water Resources,” Quinn said. “It’s a very important ministry. They have a very serious mission.”
Quinn noted that Ellicott and LWT are the only company worldwide that works directly with the Iraq government to meet that country’s needs.
“It’s trying at times, but overall it’s a good experience,” he told Sumaidaie. “We feel comfortable doing business in Iraq.”
The company strives to provide excellent customer service after the sale to ensure that the dredges are working out well, Quinn said.
“It’s something we take very seriously,” he said. “We try to go beyond ... ‘here’s your dredge, good luck.’”
Sumaidaie said he’s been impressed with the dredge company’s willingness to work closely with Iraq. Other companies are not so willing to work so cooperatively, he noted.
“I hope other companies will learn from this — building trust and building relationships,” Sumaidaie said. “This is the kind of story we’d like to see get out. The general impression is that Iraq is still a war zone, and that there is corruption everywhere.”
But Ellicott’s and LWT’s experience in Iraq is proof that small companies, not just giant multi-national corporations, can do business there, Sumaidaie said.
Quinn said the company’s involvement in Iraq has resulted in many new jobs for American workers.
“They are very labor intensive,” he said of the dredges. “It takes thousands of manhours to assemble them, so you can see how many jobs are created.”
When Sumaidaie asked why the company’s dredge plant was located in the middle of the United States, Quinn said the industrial labor force in New Richmond is much stronger than the East Coast.
“It’s proven to be an excellent location,” he said. “There was excellent cooperation from the county, the city and the state. Plus, in this town there’s a technical college that we work with.”
After the group spent several hours at the LWT facility near New Richmond’s Wal-Mart, they had lunch at Bellarietta’s in downtown New Richmond. The local police department provided security for the ambassador and his hosts.