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My association with the NRC goes back to 1988, when I attended my first annual conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. I had recently left a maintenance-of-way job with the Burlington Northern Railroad and started a new career in sales for ESCO Equipment Service Co. I had the good fortune to work for the heirs apparent, Tom Gehr Jr. and Tom Dickey. Both were charter NRC members and strong believers in the value the association could provide. They encouraged me to engage with the NRC and I was blessed to have both mentor me throughout my career. Watching them, I learned the importance of networking and sharing connections in our industry.
The 1988 NRC conference was an enlightening experience. It was the first time I truly understood how big the industry was beyond just those who work for the railroads. That conference opened my eyes to our industry and laid the foundation for a growing network of professional contacts that has served me throughout my career.
Looking back, I can clearly see how the NRC helped me to not only build a professional network, but also be a smarter and more valuable employee:
• The NRC broadened my viewpoint to better understand the scope required to perform railroad projects.
• The NRC bolstered my expertise in all types of railway construction and maintenance work.
• The NRC put me in contact with end-users of products and services who provide first-hand feedback about application in the field. Their input has generated ideas for new product development, future enhancements and real case studies.
• The NRC put me in a position to strengthen our industry through participation in Railroad Day on Capitol Hill and various NRC committees.
Two longtime NRC members — with ties to the organization for more than 40 years — can testify to the evolution of the NRC and its prominent role in promoting contractors as well as suppliers.
“The NRC is an accomplished, professional organization that really sold the concept of using contractors to supplement the railroads’ forces,” says Tom Dickey, former co-owner of ESCO Equipment Service and former vice president of Industry-Railway Suppliers Inc. “Railroads put a demand on safety, first and foremost, along with consistency, quality and reliability from the contracting community. NRC contractors meet all of those requirements and over time the railroads have come to depend on them.”
George Sokulski, a well-known industry veteran, notes: “Decades ago jaws would drop if you suggested putting contractors out to work on the railroads. But, due in large part to the work of the NRC, that perception has changed. Today, contractors play a vital role in North American rail infrastructure. Railroads have discovered that contractors can be counted on to get quality work done economically and in a reliable timeframe without compromising safety.”
Sokulski describes membership in the NRC as “an extreme value for any supplier if only for the simple reason that contractors are buying equipment and materials. In my work for suppliers, I knew that it was much easier to get an appointment with a contractor or railroad representative if I already knew them from an NRC event.”
The NRC — through its annual conference and other events and activities — gives suppliers a platform, says Dickey.
“The NRC provides the most economical way for suppliers to present their products and to interact with contractors (as well as railroaders) across North America,” he says. “Suppliers and contractors help each other along and trust each other. It would be hard to do that without the NRC.”
Like Tom and George, and so many others, I am grateful to the NRC. It’s contributed to my professional development and provided exceptional mentors and friends.
We invite you to join us.
“Building a Safer and Stronger Railway Construction Industry Together!”
— Jim Hansen, , NRC Chairman