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Engineer takes Jordanian chalk industry from local to global


The Jordan Times


AMMAN — A Jordanian chemical engineer noticed an industry gap in the Kingdom, which eventually led him to a great achievement: Opening a small factory that would eventually become globally competitive.
Salah Oqbi graduated from Jordan University of Science and Technology in 1994 and afterwards worked at Jordan Carbonate Company, which utilises local raw materials, he told The Jordan Times. 
Back then, he was a new graduate with limited opportunities, and he wanted to change the concept of a traditional job by creating his own employment, he said. 
“I decided to study raw materials used in the manufacture of chalk, as not much attention was given to the chalk industry in Jordan,” Oqbi noted.
Seven years of hard work and experimentation through more than 2,149 trials eventually yielded positive results, he said, adding that this period of exploration focused on economic cost, marketing mechanisms, financial funding and the raw materials for making chalk. 
“I got a loan worth JD30,000 from the Development and Employment Fund, which helped me start a factory back in 2002 with the help of the local labour force,” he said.
Oqbi Chalk Factory soon shifted from manufacturing ordinary chalk to medical chalk in order to become globally competitive, which is costly and requires sophisticated machinery for production, he said.
“In 2007, we participated in the Paper World Exhibition in Germany, at which we were able to gain new clients from 13 different countries, and that was the beginning of us going international,” Oqbi recalled, adding that the Jordanian factory now competes with Korean and French factories.
Since 2012, Oqbi Chalk Factory has been located at Hussein Bin Abdullah II Industrial City in Karak, offering jobs to more than 120 young residents of the area, he said, adding that the local product is exported to more than 120 countries across the world.
Four years ago, the factory expanded its products to include coloured pens, modelling dough for children and other products, he said.
“My message for Jordanian youth is that they need to create their own opportunities and find their niche, rather than waiting for a job offer call,” he said.

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