Norfolk Southern CEO James Squires was consistently complementary of the Hampton Roads Chamber’s work developing the region during his Chamber Leadership address on November 2. “We have a commonality of mission. Our basic mission of helping this region and the economy grow.”
Squires recanted a bit of Norfolk Southern history stating the railroad today is the culmination of mergers of 400 different railroads back to the 1830’s. “All that time focused on moving the economies of the region forward.”
Norfolk Southern is truly an engine pushing our economy. “In 2016 alone we assisted 71 businesses locating or expanding their facilities along our lines, yielding $4 billion in customer investment that will ultimately lead to 4600 new jobs. Clearly this is success by the Chamber definition and a successful Chamber leads to successful business that develops a successful Norfolk Southern.”
Squires was also quick to note the partnership Norfolk Southern has with the Port of Virginia. “The Port makes Hampton Roads a gateway to the world and has from way back.” Squires later answered a question about the growth of the port and said “as the Port of Virginia grows, we grow. Their growth generates more containers moving into and out of the region. We gain when the port expands. We are partners, we are in it together, separately and together engines of economic development.”
Safety is Squires and Norfolk Southern’s top concern. It is one of the things that keeps this CEO awake at night. “I am always concerned for the safety of our people and the citizens around the tracks. Especially at night and what could happen in the middle of the night.” Squires said he also worries about his shareholders at night. “I want them to be pleased with our results. I want satisfied shareholders.”
Norfolk Southern has worked to expand passenger rail to the region. “We focus on freight, but we coexist with passenger rail because we have enough capacity on the lines in this region.”
Squires explained exactly what Norfolk Southern is transporting on their rails. Sixty percent of the cargo is general merchandise: agricultural products, paper, metals, construction materials and automotives, and 15 percent is coal. Although that number is down, Squires is confident coal will always be a viable source for generating electricity. “We used to be at 30-percent for coal. We believe coal is here to stay and has a place in the energy markets for years to come.”
During the question and answer period, Diane Kaufman, a Regional Director for Senator Tim Kaine said “Thank you for your philanthropic work. It is very important what Norfolk Southern and you do for this community.” Squires spoke proudly of Norfolk Southern’s dedication to the making the region better. “Whether it’s the $7.5 million the foundation donates each year or the guidance that our employees lend to the nonprofit boards in Hampton Roads and throughout the system, or the many hours of effort our team exerts every year to lift up or fix up our community through volunteer activities, you can be sure Norfolk Southern is investing in growth with long term perspective.”
Squires invited all to learn more about Norfolk Southern at the Norfolk Southern Museum in Norfolk.
Thank you to our Chamber Leadership Series sponsors: Presenting Sponsor, Southern Bank; Gold Sponsor, Opportunity Inc.; Event partners, GoRail and Norfolk Southern; AV Sponsor, Productive AV; Radio Sponsor, Sinclair Communications; Program Sponsors, CSX Transportation, Raymond A. Mason School of Business at the College of William and Mary, Vandeventer Black, LLP.
Pictured from left to right: Drew Lumpkin, Scott Miller, Thom Prevette, John Reinhart, James Squires, Bryan K. Stephens, Shawn Avery, Diane Kaufman and Taylor Harrell