By Christine Collins
(Dec. 18, 2017–WASHINGTON, DC) Toy trains are a prominent feature of the season. The real ones keep the holidays moving on time.
But there are lots of gifts Norfolk Southern never puts in a boxcar.
The Maryland Chamber of Commerce member plays a pivotal role in keeping the holidays moving. According to Assistant Manager for Government Relations Marlee Baucom, the first wave of shipping begins around Labor Day. That’s when retailers and mail-order distribution centers start building inventory. The second wave happens well before Cyber Monday, in mid-November, to fuel those sales and put smiles on faces all over the country.
December, though, isn’t the only season of giving for NS. The freight line contributes millions of dollars each year to organizations all over its 22-state network, and has a limited dollar-for-dollar matching program for employee and retiree philanthropy.
“We take a holistic approach when it comes to corporate giving, and believe that any cause that benefits the community is a cause that ensures the well-being of our business, as well,” Baucom said.
That means support for civic and cultural programs like performing arts groups, and public safety efforts like local fire and police departments. The railroad gives to food banks and homeless shelters. NS also funds education initiatives like universities, early childhood programs, museums and libraries. In addition, it supports economic development groups.
The company tends to prioritize projects in areas with large employee bases, or with direct connection to its operations. It also donates to efforts that demonstrate the greatest need or the promise of high impact.
“We believe it’s important we do our part to ensure that these communities are safe, clean and prosperous places to live,” Baucom explained. “As a business, we want to partner with the communities we serve to help make them better places to live and work.”
On top of these philanthropic programs, there are substantial environmental commitments. Shipping by rail is far more energy efficient and environmentally friendly than over-the-road for large hauls. But, NS is, after all, an “old line” railroad, associated with coal and electricity. So it supports conservation projects like a $5.6 million partnership in the Mississippi Delta to reforest 10,000 acres of woodlands with 6.4 million trees.
NS is also in the midst of a $52 million energy conversion system at its primary locomotive shop in Altoona, Pennsylvania, converting from coal to natural gas, installing high-efficiency building materials and replacing insulation.
NS even introduced what it calls the Eco locomotive, a class or recycled locomotives with low-emission engines that reduce nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.
Put together, it’s all part of a mission to keep not only freight, but also communities, moving ahead.
“If our communities aren’t safe and economically vibrant, we all suffer,” Baucom said.
In other words, being good all year is just good business.