Rachid AbdallahChair, Cincinnati Branch Chair and Chief Executive Officer Jedson Engineering Cincinnati, Ohio Appointed by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System Sector Representation: Engineering Current term ends December 31, 2024
From a young age, Rachid Abdallah knew he wanted to do something constructive for a career; he just didn’t know exactly what. After exploring a range of options, he realized that his calling was in engineering.
“Being an engineer is my way of thinking in an aspirational and constructive way,” he says. “As an engineer, you get to help grow and improve things overall, and that's what I've always wanted to do.”
Born just outside Beirut, Lebanon, Abdallah came to the United States right out of high school to study engineering at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. From there, a job opportunity brought him to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he has lived ever since. “Cincinnati is home,” he says.
Behind the scenes
At Jedson Engineering, the Cincinnati-based engineering, procurement, and construction management firm Abdallah leads, he and his team help industrial manufacturers across the US and around the world improve their products and processes and to grow their businesses. “When a company wants to build, say, a new manufacturing facility to produce soap or deodorant or soft drinks, we cover many aspects of the industry,” he explains, from technical and economic feasibility studies to designing and building facilities where companies can safely and efficiently make those goods.
Jedson Engineering, which is primarily a business-to-business firm, works behind the scenes when it comes to consumer and other types of products. “When you buy paper towels, you might know the brand, but you might not know the company that helps the brand make them,” he says. Whether it’s designing and constructing a new facility or creating and integrating new machines into an existing plant, that company could very well be Jedson Engineering. To meet client needs, Jedson Engineering also collaborates with architects, other engineers, and capital project suppliers who have specialized industry expertise or existing client relationships.
Cultivating a pipeline
One of the primary ways Jedson Engineering engages with Cincinnati-area communities is by working with students through internships and job shadowing programs. “We engage with high schools and with colleges as much as we can to encourage students to get into the science and engineering fields,” Abdallah explains, and “this is very important for us because there is a shortage of engineers. One of our interns who just finished their first year of engineering school shared that a large percentage of their class dropped out after the first semester.”
To prevent this level of attrition, Abdallah says that students “need to be ready in high school to get into engineering. That's why we try to engage with our future contributors. We always have a number of interns and co-ops working with us and have found this to be a very effective method of integrating talented new people into our organization.”
Learning from different perspectives
Abdallah began his service with the Cleveland Fed as a member of the Cincinnati Business Advisory Council. “It was very interesting to me to learn from the different perspectives of the council members and what goes on in the Federal Reserve System,” he says. When Abdallah was asked to join the Cincinnati Branch board of directors, he “jumped on the opportunity without hesitation.”
While keeping client information confidential, Abdallah shares with the Cleveland Fed what he’s seeing and hearing in his industry. This insight helps paint a picture of what’s going on with the economy in the Cincinnati area. Abdallah, as head of Jedson Engineering, is in a unique position to provide this information because of the types of businesses with which his company works. Because Jedson Engineering deals with a range of industries—from industrial manufacturing to food and beverage—he gets a wide perspective on the economy. He and his team often get early indications of changes in potential capital investments and consumer spending. For instance, companies often approach Jedson Engineering for studies on the cost of improving a product’s design, something which is spurred by consumer demand, or studies on the cost of bringing a new product to market.
Jedson Engineering’s business is “based on consumers, and that has a direct link to the economy,” he says. “If consumers are buying, our clients want to produce more of what they're buying, and then they come to us for help with that.”
Abdallah enjoys serving on the Bank’s board. He appreciates “the camaraderie with the board members of the Cleveland Fed” and “the resources, the capabilities, and the strength of the economists” in the Federal Reserve System.
Abdallah has a great admiration for entrepreneurs. “They are the lifeblood of every community, small and large,” he explains. Like engineers, they “are all about being constructive and improving things and making things better for everybody. They do amazing things for the community and economy.”
Abdallah and his wife, who is French, first met at school in Beirut when they were both 15 years old. The two started dating during their senior year of high school, but then she moved to France after graduating. Abdallah headed to the United States to attend college, and after graduating, he reconnected with her in the States and then, he says, “I married my high school sweetheart.” They have three daughters; one is in college, one in high school, and one in middle school.