U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council: 2018 Year in Review
This past year marked the Council’s 25th anniversary. Over the past two and a half decades, the Council has evolved from an organization focused on disseminating information on trade and investment opportunities through seminars, newsletters, trade shows, and business forums, as well as inbound and outbound business development missions, to an entity recognized today as the premiere U.S.-based bilateral business promotion organization working with Saudi and American companies.
In 2018, assistance from the expert staff of the Council resulted in over 18 new market transactions between U.S. and Saudi businesses. Shifting our strategy to align with the principles presented in Vision 2030 has been our underlying focus, we’ve made important inroads with key industrial sectors and with crucial stakeholders and Saudi Government entities including Saudi Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monsha’at), General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), Saudi Customs Authority, Saudi Arabian Military Industries company (SAMI), and General Authority Military Industries (GAMI).
Our successful 2018 can be attributed to the strategic engagement of our Board of Directors, the dynamic membership of both our U.S. and Saudi companies, and the dedication of our staff both in Washington and Riyadh. This past year we focused on instituting two key campaigns: One was to build our relationship with small and medium enterprises (SMEs), while the other was to help prepare our defense industry members for the changing landscape post Vision 2030. Our campaigns centered upon market intelligence reports, events and targeted outreach.
We began our SME campaign with a report that highlighted the contribution that Saudi Arabian SMEs make to the economy and several ways their impact could be increased. Following our report, we hosted our first SME Forum in Los Angeles, which welcomed over 260 U.S. and Saudi business leaders. The Council connected U.S. and Saudi SMEs with major Saudi corporations such as the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) and Saudi Aramco. We also provided professional training to SMEs through a case study bootcamp organized in partnership with SABIC and council member Accountability. We received positive coverage from both major U.S. and Saudi media outlets. The event was covered 23 Saudi outlets, with major placements in Asharq Al Awasat, our media sponsor, Zawya, Al Arabiya, Arab News, and Al Yaum. The program also received significant coverage through CNBC, with featured interviews with our Co-Chairmen Steve Demetriou, Chairman and CEO of Jacobs, and Abdallah Jum’ah, Chairman of Saudi Investment Bank, as well as our CEO Edward Burton. The Council’s efforts accomplished three main goals: fostering new business connections; becoming a thought leader within the SME community: and reinforcing the impact of SMEs by increasing their opportunity for partnership.
In March, through our partnership with SAMI, we organized a high-level conference on Defense technology. The program served an opportunity to connect our defense industry members with leaders in charge of executing Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 for the defense sector. Concurrently, the Council published a Defense Industry Sector Report providing in-depth insight on the new opportunities offered through Vision 2030, as well as the potential impact on the U.S. defense industry. We look forward to presenting our findings in a webinar to be held in early 2019.
Looking forward, the Council will continue outreach to key Saudi stakeholders to better serve the needs of our members and the Saudi market in the coming years. We are developing new relationships with public and private partners, similar to our existing relationships with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Ministry of Health, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and a wide array of private firms. We look to further collaborating with these stakeholders to not only better understand their needs to achieve success but also to bring the market opportunities they influence directly to our members.
In 2019, the Council would like to deepen our ongoing dialogue with members. We are very interested to know how we can better serve you, we welcome your input on our operational focus. The Council continues to strive to provide the best possible service to our members and can only do so with your thoughtful feedback. We also encourage our members to derive the full value of membership and participate in all our programs. In the meantime, we are excited for our plans for this year and hope to see you at our events either in the U.S. or Saudi Arabia. We wish everyone success in 2019 and thank you for your support.