NRC Chairman's Column: ‘Change’ Prevailing Message for 2020 Conference, NRC and Year Ahead

Feb. 13, 2020
The railroad contracting association wraps up a successful conference in San Diego and launches a rebranding effort aimed at "Building a Safer and Stronger Railway Construction Industry Together."

Network. Learn. Advocate. That’s the promise we pitched to attendees coming to the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association 2020 Conference and NRC-REMSA Exhibition in early January. Our conference kept that promise and lived up to its reputation as the best networking event in the railway industry. Attendees got a lot of bang for their buck with a stellar program detailing railroad and rail-transit capital programs for 2020, as well as panel discussions and workshops focusing on AREMA, the FRA, signals and communications, passenger rail opportunities, legislative updates and women in rail. Everyone at the NRC conference left San Diego smarter, more connected and hopefully better prepared for business in 2020.

A high point of the conference was hearing from Canadian Pacific CEO Keith Creel in an informal “fireside chat.”

On Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), Creel said, “I’ll tell you one thing it means absolutely. It means change. It’s about change, about creating companies over the long-term that are sustainable. PSR will innovate and create solutions to operate efficiently.”

Creel challenged contractors and suppliers to identify solutions that don’t exist today.

“PSR opens the window of opportunity for shareholders, employees, customers and for suppliers,” he asserted. “… Do it a new way. Embrace it. It will spread like wildfire, because it works… It’s a recipe for success in any business.”

The NRC has embraced the challenge to change by embarking on a construction project of our own. Our goal: to deliver greater value to our members and other industry and government partners. We achieved our first milestone by introducing a new logo that better illustrates our brand promise of “Building a Safer and Stronger Railway Construction Industry Together.”

The NRC also launched a new website that provides more information and resources for our members in an easy-to-navigate format. Look for testimonials from our members about the value the NRC brings to their business. Find us at

Although many of our members compete against each other, they understand the tremendous importance of working together through the NRC when it comes to education and safety. The NRC is investing in railway education programs through annual grants to educational institutions with railway construction and engineering programs. We continue to develop new tools to train employees of our member companies to work smarter and injury free. Members can find those in the “Safety” section of our new website.

With Railroad Day on Capitol Hill coming up March 4, 2020, Creel’s remarks about the importance of staying connected to government officials are particularly relevant.

“We need to connect with employees, customers and regulators,” Creel said. “We need to explain our story. We need to help people see the logic – to better understand [our role] based on the facts, not on politics.”

The NRC is offering you the chance to share your story with members of Congress at the annual Railroad Day on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. If you’ve never done this before, I urge you to exercise your right and join us on Capitol Hill. No one can tell a more compelling story about the impact of a strong railway system bolstered by qualified railway construction workers than someone who has seen it come together out on the track. By participating in Railroad Day over the years, I’ve learned to better tell our story and have made some valuable connections with members of Congress, their staff and other government and industry leaders in the process.

I can assure you the NRC hears Creel’s message about change. As the NRC chairman, I am committed to encouraging innovation and will advocate for the industry on behalf of the NRC membership. We will be hard at work “Building a Safer and Stronger Railway Construction Industry Together!” and invite you to join us.