For over 75 years, U.S.-Saudi Business Council (USSBC) Chairman’s Circle member, Bechtel Corporation, has partnered with Saudi Arabia to help drive its economic growth and become a global hub for industry and innovation. Beyond landmark projects such as Riyadh Metro and Jubail Industrial City, the company has recently been selected by NEOM, a USSBC Saudi Chairman’s Circle member, to design, build and project manage the construction of NEOM’s transport, power and water infrastructure.
Ambassador Justin Siberell, Bechtel’s newly appointed President of Europe and the Middle East Region, spoke to the Council about his goals for the region, Bechtel’s future plans for the Kingdom, and the company’s contribution to Vision 2030.
- You have recently been appointed as Bechtel’s Region President for Europe and the Middle East. What interested you in assuming this new role? What do you hope to achieve?
As your readers may be aware, Bechtel is an iconic American company, with significant experience in the Middle East. I am very excited about the opportunity to expand yet further Bechtel’s already well-developed partnerships across the region. As a company committed to quality and integrity, and to building positive, enduring relationships with our customers, Bechtel enhances economic wellbeing and creates new opportunities in the places it works. I’ve been fortunate to see throughout my career the positive impact that American business can create in terms of improved living standards and quality of life. I hope to further build upon that in my new role.
- You served 27 years in the U.S. Foreign Service, most recently as the U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain. How do you believe this experience will lead to furthering Bechtel’s ambitions for the region?
I was honored to serve as an American Diplomat for more than a quarter century, with most of that time spent in the Middle East. From my experience, there is no substitute for a strong American presence and positive relations across this region. But good relations aren’t built by governments alone. They truly thrive when built upon a wide and diverse base of interactions, in business, culture, education, tourism, and the like. In the Gulf, American companies like Bechtel have contributed significantly to enhancing the skills and capabilities of local businesses with which they partner. Bechtel has been present in the Kingdom for more than 75 years, and places its relationships with its customers at the center of its business. Effective diplomacy is similarly built upon the establishment of strong and trusting partnerships that stand the test of time.
- What was most rewarding about your post in Bahrain?
There is no greater honor than to serve one’s country, and I was especially privileged to do so as Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain. The United States-Bahrain relationship is a long-standing strategic partnership that has proved exceptionally beneficial not only to the two nations but produced strategic benefits across the region. The presence of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which has enhanced security throughout the Gulf region for more than 70 years is just one example. What I found most rewarding was the opportunity to identify new areas where our two countries could cooperate. From the establishment of a new American University in Bahrain to new investments in technology, cloud computing and cyber security by U.S. companies, our historic partnership continues to expand into new fields that will ensure a bright future.
- What are some of your biggest accomplishments that have shaped your career?
I was blessed to have been involved in a great number of exciting and challenging events over more than a quarter century representing my country. Serving on the staff of the White House, directing State Department counterterrorism efforts, and representing the United States as an Ambassador were highlights. But on a personal level, meeting my wife while posted in the UAE, and then seeing our children born in three different Arab countries was undoubtedly the greatest accomplishment. Our family was welcomed in every country we resided across the region, and we developed wonderful, lasting friendships that we are privileged to maintain, especially in these challenging times of the Coronavirus pandemic.
- Bechtel has operated in Saudi Arabia for over 75 years, what are Bechtel’s plans for the Kingdom for the next 25 years?
Bechtel’s partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was shaped through development of some of the country’s most vital economic infrastructure, from the Ras Tanura refinery to the Trans Arabian Pipeline to NEOM. Our focus has always been on partnering with the Kingdom to achieve its development ambitions and provide a better future for the Saudi people. Saudi Arabia is a focal point for Bechtel’s work across the region. All four of Bechtel’s business units are represented and active in the Kingdom, and we look forward to continuing to grow our activities as the Kingdom continues to carry out its exciting development plans for the future.
- How does Bechtel’s global strategy fit with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan?
Vision 2030 places the wellbeing of the Saudi people above all, and that is entirely consistent with Bechtel’s approach and commitment in the countries where we work. As an example, in each of our projects, we dedicate significant time and energy to developing a strong local workforce, and to implementing training and skills-building programs that enhance local capacity long after our projects are completed. Such skills programs have benefitted Bechtel too, over the years, as we have been able to draw from such talent in undertaking new projects and activities. The opportunity to have a role in the development of NEOM – the embodiment of the Vision 2030 plan to grow and diversify the Saudi economy and position it to play a leading role in global development – is also very exciting. NEOM is reimagining city living and working by revitalizing and creating a new model for urban design and livability. It will be the world’s first large-scale urban development conceived from the start for the digital and AI era. As a company similarly committed to innovation, Bechtel looks forward to contributing to realizing this one-of-a-kind project.