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Enterra Solutions provides technology to Iraq

War-torn Iraq might seem an unlikely place for a small Yardley company to do business. Yet, entrepreneur Stephen DeAngelis' venture, Enterra Solutions L.L.C., a management-consulting and software firm, has a technology that the Pentagon and the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq say they believe could help revitalize the Iraqi economy, assist once-idle factories to sell their goods, and attract foreign investment.

Stephen DeAngelis, of Enterra Solutions, L.L.C., with a group of Kurdish children in Iraq.
Stephen DeAngelis, of Enterra Solutions, L.L.C., with a group of Kurdish children in Iraq.Read more

War-torn Iraq might seem an unlikely place for a small Yardley company to do business.

Yet, entrepreneur Stephen DeAngelis' venture, Enterra Solutions L.L.C., a management-consulting and software firm, has a technology that the Pentagon and the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq say they believe could help revitalize the Iraqi economy, assist once-idle factories to sell their goods, and attract foreign investment.

Enterra, which also is doing work for the operator of the Port of Philadelphia, has a $23 million, three-year contract with the Kurdistan Regional Government to create and operate a business-development center in Erbil, Iraq, where foreign investors can come to invest in critical infrastructure industries - banking, telecommunications, agriculture, chemicals, energy and utilities.

Enterra, whose clients have included NASA, Fidelity Investments, W.L. Gore & Associates Inc., and Conair Corp. consumer products, is working with Holt Logistics Corp., of Gloucester, to improve operations and security at the Port of Philadelphia.

Hundreds of foreign companies are now doing business in Iraq. Enterra has two Pentagon contracts. One is to establish a call center that will handle incoming and outgoing calls for products from Iraqi manufacturers. The other is to set up a business-to-business trading portal, or Web site, for Iraqi manufacturers, similar to Amazon.com Inc. or eBay Inc.

The call center and Iraqi business portal are expected to be operational in about six weeks.

Enterra partnered with Iraq and Western firms to do the work, including Korek Telecom in Kurdistan. A Kuwait-based firm, Agility Logistics, will handle supply-chain logistics to get goods shipped out of Iraq.

"We created a business model that will address the nation-state-building portion of war in the 21st century," said DeAngelis, Enterra's founder and chief executive officer.

DeAngelis started Enterra - which now has 10 employees in Yardley, 25 in Reston, Va., and 10 in other locations - in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the financial collapses of Enron Corp. and WorldCom Inc. DeAngelis said the world became increasingly complex for business and trade. Companies were faced with a myriad of complex security, compliance and accounting regulations - everything from Sarbanes-Oxley to the Patriot Act.

"We saw a major market gap that globalization was foisting upon companies and governmental agencies," DeAngelis said. "We sought to bridge that gap."

Enterra's technology, called rule set automation, translates regulations, laws and policies into software codes and mathematical algorithms. The software then is embedded inside the operating systems of a company or government agency.

Enterra has collaborated with the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Oak Ridge visiting strategist Thomas P.M. Barnett joined Enterra 21/2 years ago as senior managing director after meeting DeAngelis at the Naval War College, where Barnett was lecturing.

"Ours is a leap-ahead technology," said Barnett, who spent 20 years working in the military, including the Pentagon. The technology's goal, he said, is software that adapts on the fly, "so if a change happens in one sphere - a law or a compliance regulation - you can change your security procedures, change all your performance metrics."

Carnegie Mellon's Software Engineering Institute collaborated with Enterra on security and data protection.

"SEI's approach still exists within parts of the Enterra technology," said SEI senior technologist Bill Wilson. The federal research lab also recruited DeAngelis as a visiting scientist.

Last May, DeAngelis joined a trip to Iraq for U.S. businesspeople that was led by Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Paul Brinkley.

The Iraqi government is seeking to reopen factories formerly owned by Saddam Hussein's regime. The premise is that putting idle Iraqis back to work should help calm violence because it would leave fewer disgruntled individuals willing to plant bombs or commit other crimes for money.

"We are seeking to turn back on approximately 120 factories, through a series of privatization initiatives and joint ventures with international partners," said DeAngelis, who returned from Iraq with ideas for using Enterra's technology and management practices.

He submitted a proposal and won the contracts.

Enterra expects to have 50 employees in Iraq by midyear.

For Holt Logistics, which operates the Philadelphia port's Packer Avenue Marine Terminal and the Gloucester Marine Terminal in New Jersey, Enterra software will be used to integrate security, compliance and improved performance management with a "state-of-the-art system for responding to weapons of mass destruction and natural disaster," according to an Enterra statement.

Holt must contend "with an absolute dizzying array of regulatory agencies," president Leo Holt said - "everything from the U.S. Coast Guard to Department of Homeland Security, Department of Agriculture to the Food and Drug Administration, as well as local, state and federal law enforcement."

Enterra's job is to make these disparate systems interoperable, Holt said. "If there's a jam-up of ships coming in, or an oil spill, this technology would immediately alert people faster, quicker and more efficiently," he said.

"It's not just an alert, like check your BlackBerry," he said. "It would spark a series of operational decisions that allow things to operate more efficiently."

Holt and Enterra plan to eventually take the technology "on the road to every port we can," the port operator said.

Enterra, which plans to grow by buying companies, recently acquired Cincinnatus Consulting L.L.C., a Philadelphia port- and harbor-consulting firm.

DeAngelis, 45, named Esquire magazine's "best and brightest innovator" in 2006, previously headed three companies - two technology-related enterprises and one specialty-chemicals manufacturer. He invested his own money to start Enterra, and raised $15 million from family and friends.

The company, with sales under $10 million in 2006 and in 2007, expects revenue this year of $25 million to $30 million, he said.

DeAngelis hopes eventually to take the company public. He wants to build a 300,000- square-foot "computer science factory" at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, he said. He envisions Enterra's Philadelphia headquarters one day employing 500.

"My goal is to run a very vibrant, valued public company."