NS’s 2024 ‘Opportunity Pipeline’

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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Norfolk Southern photo.

Pipelines can flow freely. They can have blockages. And they can leak. For railroads, those three conditions usually mean, respectively, a network with good velocity, or one experiencing service disruptions and losing market share. For Norfolk Southern, it’s a pipeline “full of strong growth opportunities with both new and existing customers.”

At the railroad’s 4Q and Full-Year 2023 earnings call, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Ed Elkins provided several examples of a pipeline that “reflects our strategy in action and our customers’ confidence in our ability to execute.”

Optimizing peak package levels and increasing rail capacity for FedEx: “In February 2023, our team met with leaders of FedEx Ground with the intent to enhance Norfolk Southern service for their transportation network. We listened to their business forecasts and made strategic adjustments that we knew would set us up to better-serve this valued customer. Because we provided consistent, reliable service for FedEx Ground leading up to Peak Season, FedEx Ground was able to optimize peak package levels and increase rail capacity. Maintaining this level of consistency, we are forecasting this momentum will continue and FedEx Ground volume is projected for continued growth this calendar year.

Launching service with new customer PureCycle: “NS provided business development support to PureCycle in 2023, and we will soon launch our first carload with this brand-new customer. The company makes Ultra-Pure Recycled (UPR) resin from polypropylene plastic waste for commercial scale. Once fully operational, the Ironton, Ohio facility is projected to have an annual production capacity of 107 million pounds of UPR resin—aiming to significantly reduce global plastic waste. As the most sustainable transportation solution, shipping by rail will further help PureCycle reach its emission targets, and we are excited to launch our business together.”

Generating $3.1 billion in customer investment and more than 4,150 new jobs: “As we look to 2024, we are encouraged by the robust pipeline of customers looking to expand or locate facilities along our lines. NS partnered with 62 customers to facilitate the completion of strategic industrial development projects in 2023. Collectively, these projects represent $3.1 billion in customer investment and the creation of more than 4,150 new jobs along our lines. For example, Scout Motors tapped our industrial development and automotive logistics expertise in 2023, as the company announced it will invest $2 billion in Richland County, S.C., for a new electric vehicle automotive manufacturing facility.”

The following electric vehicle activity also located along Norfolk Southern lines, or with a short line partner, in 2023:

  1. General Motors and Samsung SDI, as the companies invest more than $3 billion in New Carlisle, Indiana to build an EV battery cell plant.
  2. Albemarle, as the company invests $1.3 billion in Chester County, South Carolina for a lithium hydroxide Mega-Flex facility.
  3. Ford, as the company makes a significant investment in Marshall, Michigan, using knowledge and services from Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Limited (CATL), to build lithium iron phosphate batteries.

And, in January 2024, a planned joint venture of Accelera, Daimler Truck, and PACCAR selected a site in Marshall, Miss. “to create advance battery cell technology that supports the adoption of electric vehicles for medium- and heavy-duty commercial transportation. The facility will be located on a portion of the Chickasaw Trails Industrial Park Megasite, with proximity to a Norfolk Southern rail line and our Rossville Intermodal Facility. Norfolk Southern has worked for years alongside economic development partners in the region to prime the megasite.”

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