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Views of the Trade Mission: A Learning Experience and Wealth of Opportunity

Kurt Bergman, Chief Executive Officer, Michael Baker International

Guest blog post by Kurt Bergman, Chief Executive Officer, Michael Baker International

As the CEO of Michael Baker International, I was honored when we were selected to accompany U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on an infrastructure related trade mission to the UAE, Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. After eight whirlwind days, I look back and reflect on what I learned and felt about the trip and the wealth of opportunity in our future: 

  1. The Middle East continues to be one of the most exciting infrastructure markets on the planet, with well thought, visionary initiatives across the infrastructure spectrum of water, power, surface transportation, aviation and others as well as developments of incredible forethought about the environment, including how we will live and work in the future.
  2. The U.S. and Middle East relations continue to be strong and there is a distinct desire for American companies to participate in this market.
  3. As a global company, the U.S. Embassy Commercial office staff are an incredible asset to assist you.
  4. No matter how long you have worked in the global market, there is always something new to learn.

As we traveled from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, Riyadh and Doha, I was in awe of the size, scope and magnitude of the projects that were being conceived, planned, designed and constructed. The projects we were briefed on included the Qatari Supreme Council for Legacy's FIFA World Cup 2022 program investing over $100 Billion USD to create a fan experience based on sustainability, access and enjoyment with an eye to the future. Another program was the Saudi Arabian metro initiatives in Riyadh and Jeddah where 100 of kilometers of innovative, futuristic public light rail valued at over $50 Billion USD are being installed with a four year completion goal. The Emirati Al Satiyya island development was a wonder to contemplate with over 148 square kilometers of environmentally sensitive towns centered around a world class school, entertainment and culture containing three museums being designed by different work class Pritzker prize winning architects. Nowhere else in the world is there such a desire and drive across an entire region for sustainability, cultural and environmental stewardship and quality. Michael Baker International is excited to continue our  legacy of support in the region that goes back to the 1950s and our support to the Saudi Royal Family and to supporting the U.S. State and Defense missions throughout the region today.

At every stop, we were greeted with an air of friendship and partnership that was reflected from the Secretary’s level and the country delegations she met, down to the briefings and meeting that we, the individual companies on the mission, participated in. At every level, the message was clear. We value the U.S. friendship, partnership and support in the region and encourage American companies to invest and grow business in the region. All three of the countries we traveled to are working to be U.S. corporate friendly. That does not mean that it is without challenges, this is a different operating environment from the U.S., however, if you reach out and are willing to listen, learn and, above all, be patient, your company will flourish and grow in this exciting infrastructure market.

Even though I have been operating in the international market space for over twenty years, including supporting numerous U.S. embassies through engineering support, design and construction, I had never considered or utilized the resources of the local U.S. embassy Commercial Office. This is a mistake I will not make again. The staff at each of these embassies and the headquarters in the Department of Commerce in Washington D.C. are incredible professionals who have a great wealth of knowledge about their regions and a very real desire to help U.S. companies succeed in the international market place. I encourage anyone considering working in the international space to go to and become familiar with the fantastic support available.

As I sat in meetings, briefings, luncheons, and listened to dozens of presentations, I was continually surprised by what I was learning. I knew that I would find a couple of new ideas or methods to improve our presence and operations, I was not disappointed. The presentations were timely and reflected the initiatives and efforts that were ongoing at all levels of local and US public and private entities.

Looking back I am proud to have represented the U.S. on this mission. I am excited for the future and the many opportunities that this infrastructure market holds. This mission trip has encouraged me and the entire leadership at Michael Baker International to increase our focus and development to support the engineering, design and other requirements of this exciting market in the Middle East.

My thanks to Secretary Pritzker and her staff for including Michael Baker International on the first Commerce Secretary level trade delegation to the region in over 15 years.

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I'm proud to be an engineer who works in this company.

Recent Trip to the Middle East

I am glade to see us/ MBI finally recognize the infrastructure market in the Middle East. I can sense a real commitment to that region than what was in the past. I still remember the first time I brought a project in SA and was not even looked at. I also still remember my presentation in Qatar in which I felt MB was not committed back then. The new leadership makes me very excited. Thumbs UP