By Marcy Gordon WASHINGTON - Doing business in Kuwait is riskier
and more complicated than many small U.S. companies realize, say
commercial experts who advise them to get help before trying to
capture a piece of the massive rebuilding project.
Kuwait's laws, religious codes and business and social customs
are all potential pitfalls.
``Small companies have to be very careful or they'll lose
everything over there,'' said Donn E. Hancher, a professor of
construction engineering at Texas A&M University who has worked in
Persian Gulf countries.
``There's going to be a lot of people who will go over there and
spend a lot of money and get nothing,'' he said. ``Anybody who's
looking to get rich quick had better think twice. . .they'd better
stay home unless they have a connection.''
A vital strategy for small businesses, Hancher said, is to
subcontract with big companies with experience and connections in
Companies and unemployed workers across the United States are
rushing to get in on what could become the biggest rebuilding effort
since the Marshall Plan reconstruction of Europe after World War II.
As the Friday filing deadline approaches, scores of companies have
applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to participate in the
Kuwait rebuilding, expected to cost as much as $100 billion.
The Corps, which is overseeing engineering work and damage
assessment for the Kuwaiti government, already has hired eight big
companies for the initial phase of the project. They are Raytheon
Co., Blount International, American Dredging Co. and Brown & Root
International, all of the United States; Al Harbi Trading and
Contracting Co. Ltd. and Khudair Group, both of Saudi Arabia;
Mohamed A. Kharafi of the United Arab Emirates and Shand
Construction Ltd. of Britain.
Other companies, including some smaller firms such as oil field
specialists, have signed contracts directly with the Kuwaitis.
But none of the small companies that applied to the Corps to
work in the initial phase has received a contract.
The Corps got a $46 million contract from the Kuwaitis just
before the Gulf War started in mid-January, and it recently was
increased to $100 million as estimates rose for the costs of
Some experts believe the contract could go higher still, as
could the overall estimate of $100 billion for Kuwait's