So, CSX, you’ve just bought the largest regional railroad. Let’s take a look at what you have and what is unique about this region you’ve expanded into.
Do you really need our advice? Maybe not – CSX is already the leading class 1 in regards to reliable service and customer connection. CSX already toured the entire Pan-Am system and knows what it is getting. Nevertheless, we’re in the business of offering information, so we hope the following is useful.
1. Keep the Pan-Am Marketing Team Intact
Mike Clements and Mike Bostwick and their team are top notch. Their knowledge of the territory, the history, what is moving and what is possible are second to none (including our own here at ANRP). You, CSX, bought Pan-Am on the strength of the growth pipeline and the ability of the company to grow faster than in fact CSX has grown. It is the Pan-Am marketing team (and their extensive local relationships) that has made that happen. It would be silly to buy the company but let go of the talent that is the reason you bought it.
Another reason to keep them: they are all going to be great for whomever they work for. If it isn’t you, CSX, it will be for your competitors.
2. Cultivate Relationships with State Leadership
Local government works differently in New England, where everywhere is a town and local political concerns are uniquely politically empowered. Pan-Am used their local connections to their economic advantage, partnering with states for a string of grants. On the other hand, local power also caused troubles, for example previously blocking rail access for ethanol to global terminals in Everett, near Boston and turning piles of ties into piles of fines for environmental non-compliance.
One person that essential for CSX to cultivate is Jodi Ray, a person with significant influence in Massachusetts government. He began his career on the Boston & Maine, became Deputy Rail Administrator for the state then moved on to become Deputy Administrator for MBTA. His influence in state government is based on his rail knowledge and good sense and ability to solve problems and cut through the bureaucracy.
In Vermont, attend the rail council, which occurs roughly quarterly. All the players come together and meet directly with the state Agency of Transportation. I always learn something and value the direct communication that is possible here immensely. Every state should do this.
3. Work With Local Advocates
Rail advocates, while more focused on passenger trains, can be your friends and help significantly with relationships with the local powers that be. They understand railroading more than politicians. Transit Matters, Vermont Rail Action Network and Trainriders/Northeast all have the ear of the state DOT and are deeply tied to local political and business leadership. They stand ready to help. So do we at Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports. Let us know what we can do.
Christopher has 15 years of railroad experience, starting as a Conductor on Cape Cod and 15 years of public policy advocacy and outreach work. Christopher is Executive Director of Vermont Rail Action Network, communicating the vision of better trains to elected and government officials, community leaders and the public. Christopher is a consultant for freight and passenger planning and development projects including operating planning, federal grant applications, marketing, and public outreach.