Reply All: A conversation with Brian Hammock

REPLY ALL | Brian Hammock
Resident Vice President, CSX Transportation, Inc. 
Maryland Chamber of Commerce member
Relationship-builder

Could you tell us a little about yourself and what led you to your current position as Resident Vice President at CSX?

My background is in law and government. For the first 10 years of my career I worked for former Mayor and Governor Martin O’Malley, learning how government works (and often how it is broken) in various roles including as special assistant to the governor’s chief of staff. During the four years I spent in the governor’s office I was also in law school at night. When I left government, I joined Venable in Baltimore where I spent the majority of my time on commercial litigation matters under the guidance of now Chairman Emeritis Jim Shea. I worked on a range of other issues — regulatory and administrative law, I represented Baltimore neighborhoods before the Baltimore Liquor Control Board, and learned a lot of life lessons representing a criminal defendant in federal court.

At Venable I also got my start with railroads, when the governor appointed me to the Board of Directors for the state-owned Canton Railroad Company. Getting to work with a railroad was a great change of pace. CSX was also a client at the time, so when they were looking for someone in Maryland with my background, I jumped at the chance.

At CSX my main focus is overseeing our relationship at the state and local levels. From January to April I am often in Annapolis working on legislation that impacts the railroad. I get to work closely with the business community and other friends in industry. The Maryland Chamber has been a key ally there. The remainder of the year I work on a range of issues supporting departments within CSX — real estate transactions, which there are many, safety initiatives, community engagement, and crisis response. I also spend a considerable amount of time on strategic growth initiatives like the Howard Street Tunnel project.

Did you always want to pursue a career in transportation? What has continued to drive you throughout your career?

Not particularly. I enjoyed the intellectual challenge of working on diverse subject matters. But so many issues in Maryland come back to transportation and infrastructure. I knew early in my career that I wanted to be a part of building something lasting — and not just in the figurative sense. Working with the railroad has given me that outlet.

How does ‘business as usual’ change around the holidays for CSX?

This is a busy time for the railroad. A strong economy and tight truck capacity are contributing to a busy UPS Peak Season for CSX. Between Thanksgiving Day and the end of the year, UPS expects to handle more than double its average daily volume and more than 800 million packages total, up from 700 million last year. For CSX, UPS volume is expected to increase by about 50 percent. On-time package delivery is a UPS imperative during the holiday season, and it relies on CSX to provide failure-free service throughout the peak.

The holidays are also a time for us to give back. This year was our 75th annual running of the Santa Train, which spreads Christmas joy to thousands of children and families in rural Appalachia. Every year, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, CSX’s Santa Train chugs along 110 miles of track through the mountains, stopping at 14 locations to deliver more than $200,000 worth of gifts, including toys, books, backpacks, fresh fruit, candy, and coats.

How is the transportation industry shaping Maryland’s economic climate?

I think the transportation industry is at the core of Maryland’s economy. The railroads are the arteries that feed the heart of our economy — the Port of Baltimore. We have an economic playbook that has served us well for hundreds of years. The transportation industry gives working men and women access to well-paying jobs that support family and community. Just look at projects like Trade Point Atlantic, which could be a source of good jobs for decades to come. Made possible by its location along I-95, next to deep water, and serviced by two Class-1 railroads.

In your own words, how do you think Maryland transportation could be improved?  

I think the most obvious answer is the one that is most true — investment in our aging infrastructure. Not only will investing in infrastructure create construction jobs, it will be a catalyst for job creation in the places in our state that need jobs the most.

On Friday, December 17th, CSX shared a big announcement regarding the Howard Street Tunnel project, what does this news mean for the future of Maryland?

Bringing double-stack to the Port of Baltimore has been a priority for Maryland for many years. The state estimates the Howard Street Tunnel project will create more than 6,800 person-year jobs and nearly $3 billion in undiscounted benefits to Maryland. Getting the tunnel double-stacked will protect and amplify the significant investments the state and private entities have made in the Port in recent years.

CSX is known for its commitment to community outreach, specifically through its grants and Pride in Service program. Could you speak to why it’s so vital for businesses to give?

We are a service company, so service is in our DNA. To provide excellent customer service you have to create an environment around you, whether it be with employees or community, to support that service. One in five of our employees are serving or have served their community in the military or as a first responder. CSX Pride in Service will connect service members, first responders, and their families to the resources and support they need through partnerships with several not-for-profit organizations – Blue Star Families, First Responders Children’s Foundation, Operation Gratitude, Operation Homefront, and Wounded Warrior Project. This multi-million dollar commitment and collaborative approach will positively impact more than 100,000 heroes and their families over the next two years.

What program [of CSX’s] do you seeing being the most impactful and why?

Locally, I am really proud of the relationship we have developed with the Benjamin Franklin High School community in Curtis Bay. We have done a number of projects with the school. One issue that relationship highlighted for us was that not only did the community lack adequate places for safe recreation, the high school also did not have a football stadium. To meet those needs, CSX provided a $1 million grant and in partnership with the Cal Ripkin Sr. Foundation built the CSX Field at Baybrooke Park, which opened earlier this year. Partnerships like this have such a powerful impact on community and for our local employees.

What first got you involved in the Maryland Chamber of Commerce?

As a business that is not well understood, and often operates out of view of the general public, we had a need to connect with other businesses to move our priorities forward. A few years ago the General Assembly was considering a bill that would dramatically impact railroads operating in the state. Had the bill passed it would have hampered the Port of Baltimore as it would raise logistics cost in Maryland well beyond our neighboring states. The Maryland Chamber stepped up to help us build a coalition of the business community to educate lawmakers on the negative impacts and ultimately kill the bill.

What motivates you in your personal life?

For the last eight years it has been to be a great role model for my children. My parents taught me many more life lessons through their actions than through words.

What advice would you give to others just starting their career journey?

Work hard everyday and build strong relationships with those around you. Your colleagues today will be leaders in the future. No matter the direction your career takes you, those early relationships have a way of resurfacing through the years. Your success will likely stem, in some way, from relationships you build early in your career.

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