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Small Business - Big Expectations

By Capt. Vance White
First published in
SFOR Informer#125, October 31, 2001

The owner of a small Sipovo building firm sees the fruits of his labour growing through different parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The expanding business, helped by SFOR personnel and international funding, is providing communities in both the Republika Srpska (RS) and the Federation with housing and employment.

Sipovo - On Saturday, Sep. 29, Mr. Milorad Topic was presented with the British Department for International Development (DFID) plaque to officially announce the expansion of his timber house construction business in Sipovo. WO 2 Steve Kelly and Gert Butler, the United Kingdom Battle Group (UKBG) CIMIC team who worked on the project, and Lt. Col. Bruce Jackson, MND-SW G5 (Plans and policy), were present to mark the occasion and see the product of the 20,000 KM grant provided by DFID.
"SFOR and DFID support was key to the expansion of my timber home building business," said Topic.
The DFID money supplied to Topic through the UKBG CIMIC office was used to purchase two pieces of machinery required to mill the logs used in the timber frame construction. The two machines include a strip saw for rough sizing the logs and a combination joiner/table saw to finish the edges and joints.
As part of the project agreement, Topic agreed to personally provide the upgrade in power supply required to run the new equipment in his workshop, and to employ more people in the local area, including returnees to the area.
"Already progress has been made," said Butler. "He's hired local labour in the locations where he's currently building the timber houses."
Most of his clients are in the Federation, even though Topic is based in the RS. Therefore the local labourers are a mix of ethnicity. Another benefit of the project is the speed of production. The timber houses are generally cheaper to build than the conventional masonry homes. As long as there is a supply of logs, the construction takes less time, as clients don't have to postpone building in order to save money to finish the job, a delay that often occurs with block homes. An added benefit of the timber houses is the increased insulation against cold that they provide as compared to the masonry homes.
"It's a win-win situation," said Jackson. "New timber houses are built to enable local communities to accommodate returnees and jobs are provided to people in the workshop as well as to local labourers where the houses are built."
Topic is looking forward to expanding his timber home building business. He now has the machinery to prepare logs for building instead of taking a great deal of time to prepare the lumber with hand tools. He expects to double production to 10 houses per year.
He is also building a new workshop close to Sipovo in the village of Topici. He expects to employ up to six people in the workshop plus an additional four general labourers at each construction site.
Topic is the only contractor in the area to use this type of timber home construction technique. He takes plain logs and prepares them individually in his workshop to detailed specifications for the outside log walls as well as the interior framing, floor planking and wall coverings. He then transports all prepared timber structural elements and infill pieces to the construction site and completes the building process there - taking the job from start to finish.
There has been a lot of interest in the timber houses - designs for which come from a company in Mostar. As many as 50 people have visited his most recent construction site in Kupres showing there is significant demand for these homes and an opportunity for development and growth of this potentially profitable business.

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Nations of SFOR: UK