Speaker Information & Presentations Annual Meeting 2024

Minneapolis, MN

 

Economic Development Section - Reinventing a former military base: TexAmericas Center (Remote Presentation)

 

Eric Voyles, TexAmericas Center

Eric Voyles is the Executive Vice President and Chief Economic Development Officer at TexAmericas Center. He is responsible for a lease portfolio of over 1.4 million square feet and efforts to lease or sell 12,000 acres of transactable property and nearly 3.5 million square feet of industrial and commercial space for office, warehouse, dry storage, production/manufacturing, and explosive bunkers/magazines.

During his tenure at TexAmericas Center, he has grown total occupied square footage by 143%. A seasoned public-private partnership economic developer with over 30 years of progressive experience in regional economic and community development, Eric has a proven track record of delivering significant bottom-line results, being resourceful, and performing well with limited supervision and resources.

Eric builds strong coalitions across public and private sectors. He has managed two nonprofit mergers, two incubator programs, and developed and managed two targeted industry cluster development strategies – the first focused on rail service capabilities and the other on aerospace and aviation. Eric launched two international business development programs, started two State of Illinois-funded programs: an Entrepreneurship Center and an International Trade Center, and ran a nonprofit landholding/development company where he closed out a development of more than 150 acres and launched a 350-acre business park.

Eric thinks strategically and acts entrepreneurially. He has developed specialties in the areas of workforce assessment, targeted industry assessment, logistics, real estate development, small business development, historic neighborhood redevelopment, military base redevelopment, community (public sector) relations development, developer/real estate broker relations development, incentives negotiation, community and economic development organizational strategic planning, Strategic Doing, business retention, and targeted marketing and cluster development.

“TexAmericas Center is a State of Texas - Local Redevelopment Authority. Our core management team brings over 130 years of experience to all aspects of economic growth. We are a one-stop experience for business growth needs, delivering speed-to-occupancy, strategic solutions, and best in-class service.”


   

 

David Nielsen, Union Pacific

David Nielsen, as a Project Manager of Terminal Design, works to meet the expanding intermodal and auto needs of the Premium Operations team at Union Pacific.  David has spent the majority of his 22-year career focused on advancing land development projects varying from industrial, commercial, and residential.  This has positioned him well to navigate the design, permitting, land acquisition, development agreement negotiations, utility coordination, and public outreach of some of Union Pacific’s complex intermodal and auto ramp expansions.  David’s recently completed or in-construction projects include the widespan crane module at Global IV, a new agricultural transload facility at Global IV, the major expansions at Global II, Lathrop, Mesquite & East LA, and accelerated new pop-up facilities in Twin Cities and Phoenix.  These have contributed to Union Pacific’s ability to meet and adapt to the continuous changes of the market and customer needs.



 

Technology Section - Leveraging Artificial Intelligence


Paul Kuhn, BNSF Railway

Paul Kuhn is the General Director of Operations Research at BNSF. With more than 20 years of industry experience, Paul has worked in a diversity of functional departments; primarily Operations, Finance, and Service Design. In his current role he continues to enjoy the ability to engage across multiple areas of the business. The Operations Research team has a broad portfolio of operational projects and also leads capacity analysis and associated capital planning.

Outside of work, Paul has 2 fantastic children and 1 fantastic wife. He is an avid reader and lover of learning. Finally, although his knees and lungs are starting to protest, he loves hiking and the outdoors.




 

Technology Section -  Drones in Service to Rail, BNSF’s Pioneering Use of Drones and Data Analytics

Todd Graetz, BNSF Railway
 

Todd Graetz co-founded BNSF Railway’s safety-focused use drones and advanced analytics in 2013. Todd and the team at BNSF paved the way for much of today’s scaled commercial operations in the drone industry. His team partnered with The Federal Aviation Administration in 2015 to create pathways for long range, beyond visual line of sight operations in the national airspace – a partnership that continues to this day. During the partnership, The BNSF UAS/FAA team made aviation history multiple times including, in 2015, the first Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) commercial operations in the lower 48 United States – flown by an aircraft now on display at The National Air and Space Museum.

During Todd’s tenure as leader of BNSF’s program, the team has grown from 12 pilots to over 250 employee drone pilots using both line of sight and beyond line-of-sight drones in 28 states. Milestones include the first production/scaled BVLOS operations in 2016, first Part 107 night operations authority, multi-state expansion of BVLOS in 2017 and then The FAA’s first approved nationwide commercial BVLOS flight approval in 2020 – which covered 23,000 miles of flight routes. BNSF’s drone air force operates systemwide every day using a wide range of drones day and night and in all forms of railway weather – many of which operate from remotely located pilots.

Todd serves on AUVSI’s Board of Directors and most recently served on The FAA’s BVLOS Advisory and Rulemaking Committee (ARC) where he co-chaired the ARC’s Flight Rules working group. Todd is founding member of The FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee and served on The FAA’s Drone ID and Tracking Rulemaking Committee.

Along with several UAS certifications, Todd is an active general aviation pilot. He is based in Fort Worth, TX.




 

Law SectionPreservationists Gone Mad: A Case Study Of The Bismarck Rail Bridge

Jason Lien, Maslon LLP 

Jason Lien is a partner with Maslon LLP in Minneapolis. Jason’s litigation practice focuses on representing clients from the construction, real estate, and railroad industries. Prior to joining Maslon in 2002, he served as a Naval Officer with the U.S. Navy JAG Corps.








 

Real Estate Section - Building Relationships And Understanding With Utilities And Agencies


Keyana Holloway, Norfolk Southern Corporation 

Keyana Holloway, has worked in Railroad Real Estate for over 21 years.  For the last 10 years she has negotiated and prepared contracts with utilities, public and private entities and individuals who cross or parallel railroad property. Keyana also leads a team that manages portfolios for Norfolk Southern’s fiber, signboard, oil/gas, cell tower, and private crossing programs.  Keyana’s extensive knowledge in utility processes has her serving as a spokesperson in a number of legislation matters involving utility occupancies on the Norfolk Southern’s right of way.





Jason Murray, Railpros

Jason Murray has served as RailPros’ lead consultant for utility projects for two Class One Railroads and numerous shortline railroad and transit agencies across the country for the last five years. Jason previously served as an in-house real estate manager for Union Pacific Railroad. Jason earned his undergraduate degrees in human resource management and communications from Michigan State University. He was recognized as a member of Railway Age’s 2022 “Fast Trackers” 25 under 40 for his impact on the rail industry.





Jim Hild, UPRR

Jim Hild is the Director – Utilities and Contracts – Real Estate Department Union Pacific Railroad Company and has been with Union Pacific Railroad for 27 years. 

 Responsibility to oversee and ensure third party uses of Company Real Estate over Union Pacific's 23 state system are properly documented, designed, installed, constructed, operated, maintained and repaired in accordance with all Company policy's and standards to protect the Company property interests, appropriately manage exposure to risk and liability, and to protect against damage to railroad property and infrastructure which could lead to exposure to significant liability or financial cost to the Company.


Justin Mahr, Watco
 

Justin Mahr is a seasoned professional currently serving as the Director of Real Estate - Contracts & Public Projects at Watco, a position in which he exercises leadership and expertise to steer the strategic direction of the real estate division. In this pivotal role, Justin is responsible for orchestrating the efforts of both an internal team of real estate managers and external consultants specializing in real estate management. His primary focus lies in all-encompassing responsibilities related to revenue generation and the meticulous management of property assets, with a specific emphasis on utilities, public projects, signboards, and special projects.

Drawing on a wealth of experience in the railroad real estate sector, Justin's proficiency is concentrated in the intricate domains of utilities and public projects. His comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities within these sectors equips him to devise and implement effective strategies that align with Watco's broader objectives.

Justin commenced his professional journey in the railroad industry with Union Pacific Railroad, where he cultivated valuable experience and laid the groundwork for his subsequent ventures. Transitioning to RailPros marked a significant juncture in his career, offering him the opportunity to contribute to the development and management of the Norfolk Southern pipe & wire program. This role further refined his skills in navigating the dynamic landscape of railroad real estate.

In March 2021, Justin made a strategic move to Watco, assuming the role of overseeing their pipe, wire, property access, and public projects department. This transition underscored his commitment to taking on new challenges and contributing his wealth of experience to the growth and success of Watco.

A distinguished alum of the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Justin earned his bachelor's degree in Pre-Law in 1998. This educational background has endowed him with a strong analytical and strategic mindset, qualities that continue to shape his approach to the complex challenges inherent in the field of real estate and contracts. As a Director at Watco, Justin remains dedicated to driving innovation, fostering collaborative partnerships, and navigating the evolving landscape of railroad real estate with an unwavering commitment to excellence and sustainable growth.

 

Environmental Section - Climate Transition Plan & Risk Analysis


Joshua Raglin, NSCorp
 

Josh Raglin is Chief Sustainability Officer at Norfolk Southern Corporation, one of the nation’s premier transportation companies. Norfolk Southern connects customers to markets and communities to economic opportunity, with safe, reliable, and sustainable shipping solutions. The company’s network spans 22 states, every major container port in the eastern United States, and a majority of the U.S. population and manufacturing base.

Appointed Chief Sustainability Officer in 2020, Raglin leads Norfolk Southern’s sustainability strategy by championing sustainable practices in the company’s daily operations to achieve efficiencies, control costs, generate revenue, and reduce environmental impacts. These efforts include close collaboration with department leaders company-wide, along with external stakeholders including customers, investors, suppliers, and regulators.

Raglin, a wildlife biologist, joined Norfolk Southern in 1996 as a Forest Ranger at Brosnan Forest, the company’s 14,400-acre conference and research facility in South Carolina. He would continue rising through the ranks at Brosnan Forest before being named General Manager in 2006.

For two decades, Josh led the railroad’s efforts to create a nature-based solutions platform. This innovative approach optimizes multiple ecological assets such as forest carbon sequestration, wetland and stream restoration, and land conservation while generating revenues from both forestry and traditional land-management practices.

He shares his experience with the next generation of environmentalists by serving on college advisory boards for Auburn University and Georgia Tech. He serves the greater community as an active board member for the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities and The Longleaf Alliance. He is also a founding member and active advisor to Drawdown Georgia and Sustain SC which bring together commerce and conservation solutions.

Raglin graduated from Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Ecology and completed the executive development program from The Darden School at the University of Virginia.

 


Sarah Elsokkary, Arcadis
 

As part of the Arcadis sustainability advisory team for 14 years, Sarah leads sustainability advisory programs for multiple industrial clients in the transportation and logistics sector. She sources carbon footprints, develops digital tools for collecting energy usage data, and calculating emissions associated with their operations and value chains. Sarah specializes in evaluating and establishing ambitious carbon goals to improve sustainability performance.  Sarah has a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Georgia Southern University. 





Nick Pyror, CPKC

Nick Pryor plays a key role in advancing CPKC's commitments to sustainability and environmental stewardship. With more than 15 years of experience in the consulting and rail industry, he has significantly contributed to shaping the corporate ESG framework of Kansas City Southern and now, CPKC.

Nick's career, enriched by his service with the U.S. Peace Corps, has instilled in him a deep-seated commitment to environmental responsibility. His efforts have notably improved CPKC's biodiversity initiatives, and he has been particularly instrumental in developing conservation programs for the migratory monarch in both the United States and Mexico. Nick is currently leading a number of climate and emission reduction efforts including a comprehensive study across CPKC's wide and diverse Canadian rail network. The study aims to better understand the physical and financial risks of rail service under varying degrees of climate change and the types risk these changes may bear.

Nick is a member of the downtown Kansas City Rotary Club and chair of their ecology committee. He resides in Kansas City with his family and dedicates his free time to outdoor adventures and restoring their century-old home. Nick holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Iowa State University and a Master in Business Administration from California Lutheran University.

 


Environmental Section - Nature Based Solutions



Becky Hensley, CSX

Rebecca (Becky) Hensley is a Senior Manager Sustainability at CSX Transportation, Inc where she coordinates sustainability strategies, initiatives and corporate Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting. Becky has worked for CSX for over 12 years and has over 25 years of experience with environmental, sustainability and regulatory compliance. She has specialized her career in data management solutions and cross-functional team collaboration. Before joining CSX, she worked as a consultant for a variety of transportation, manufacturing, military, and government clients.
 
She holds a BS in Environmental Engineering from the University of Florida and currently lives in Jacksonville, FL.




Josh Raglin, NSCorp
 

Josh Raglin is Chief Sustainability Officer at Norfolk Southern Corporation, one of the nation’s premier transportation companies. Norfolk Southern connects customers to markets and communities to economic opportunity, with safe, reliable, and sustainable shipping solutions. The company’s network spans 22 states, every major container port in the eastern United States, and a majority of the U.S. population and manufacturing base.

Appointed Chief Sustainability Officer in 2020, Raglin leads Norfolk Southern’s sustainability strategy by championing sustainable practices in the company’s daily operations to achieve efficiencies, control costs, generate revenue, and reduce environmental impacts. These efforts include close collaboration with department leaders company-wide, along with external stakeholders including customers, investors, suppliers, and regulators.

Raglin, a wildlife biologist, joined Norfolk Southern in 1996 as a Forest Ranger at Brosnan Forest, the company’s 14,400-acre conference and research facility in South Carolina. He would continue rising through the ranks at Brosnan Forest before being named General Manager in 2006.

For two decades, Josh led the railroad’s efforts to create a nature-based solutions platform. This innovative approach optimizes multiple ecological assets such as forest carbon sequestration, wetland and stream restoration, and land conservation while generating revenues from both forestry and traditional land-management practices.

He shares his experience with the next generation of environmentalists by serving on college advisory boards for Auburn University and Georgia Tech. He serves the greater community as an active board member for the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities and The Longleaf Alliance. He is also a founding member and active advisor to Drawdown Georgia and Sustain SC which bring together commerce and conservation solutions.

Raglin graduated from Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Ecology and completed the executive development program from The Darden School at the University of Virginia.



Stephanie B. Perez, PG, FRA

Stephanie Perez, PG is the Chief of the Environmental Review Division for FRA’s Office of Environmental Program Management. She has worked for 30+ years in environmental field for both public and private sectors. Her experience spans issues from groundwater contamination to water resources management to environmental compliance. At FRA, Stephanie supported the environmental review and development several multi-billion-dollar high-speed rail programs such as the California High Speed Rail, Brightline West as well as other projects under passenger rail investment programs. She has a Bachelor of Science in Geology from Virginia Tech and is licensed as a Professional Geologist in Virginia.