How Much Will Norfolk Southern’s Departure Impact the Arts?

How Much Will Norfolk Southern’s Departure Impact the Arts?


By Jeff Maisey

All aboard?

The Norfolk Southern train is leaving the station, and with it some considerable degree of uncertainty as to the economic impact it will have on regional arts and other non-profit organizations in Hampton Roads.  

As you may have heard by now, Norfolk Southern Corporation will be moving its headquarters from downtown Norfolk to Atlanta, Georgia. 

Veer Magazine has been told by a source that wishes not to be identified the move will take place in three phases, with the first wave of headquarter employees departing by early spring. 

Norfolk Southern Corporation and its employees have been a great supporter to arts groups and community non-profit organizations. 

According to Norfolk Southern Foundation’s FY 2016 990 tax form, the Foundation directly gave $1,963,204 to regional organizations and employees gave an additional $425,139 in matching contributions for a total of $2,388,343.

In an email shared with Veer Magazine, Bob Sharak, Senior Business Development Manager for Norfolk Department of Economic Development, wrote to Norfolk Arts Manager Debra Burrell with the following thought: “Contributions at this level would not continue if the headquarters moves. Officials in Roanoke confirm that the decline in giving to local organizations was one of the largest impacts of the 2015 corporate headquarters closure.”

A decline in employee matching matching funds is a likely outcome given the relocation of Norfolk Southern’s top wage earners. Retiree matching fund contributions will be phased out completely by 2021. 

Still, Norfolk Southern Foundation has a track record of funding many organizations in regions where it does business. That is reassuring to some degree to Norfolk Mayor Kennith Alexander. 

“Norfolk Southern will still have a substantial footprint in our city and will continue its role in connecting goods to our ports,” Mayor Alexander told Veer Magazine.  “So that relationship will remain. Norfolk Southern has a record of maintaining relationships with nonprofit organizations even when it has reduced employee presence in the localities that are served by those organizations.  Given that Norfolk Southern will always have interests in Norfolk, I hope that it will continue to serve as a great corporate citizen and partner in the city’s success.”

According to Mayor Alexander, the City and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership have worked hard to keep Norfolk Southern in Norfolk. 

“The current move has been in development for a while and is mainly a reaction to heavy consolidation in the rail industry that has resulted in only two Class 1 carriers that service the eastern seaboard,” said Alexander.  “The U.S. freight rail industry is a highly concentrated with only four major railroad companies accounting for more than 90% of railroad volume.

“This, along with other forces, is encouraging consolidation and cost savings measures within companies,” Mayor Alexander continued. “This has not only been confirmed in my meetings with Norfolk Southern CEO James Squires, but also in news reports as far back as 2016.  As I have stated before, even as Norfolk Southern was transferring hundreds of employees from their office in Roanoke, although we were able to relocate many of them here, consolidating their senior management and establishing their headquarters in Atlanta has always been their ultimate objective.  Our initiative, in 2016, to relocate those workers, guarantee that Norfolk Southern create and maintain 165 new jobs, and keep their headquarters in Norfolk resulted in more than $4 million in incentives to Norfolk Southern.  For a few years this held off the inevitable.”

Following is a detailed look at the most recent available year (2016) charitable giving levels provided by Norfolk Southern Foundation and its employee matching fund program. 

The first dollar amount under each organization is the 2016 NS Foundation Contribution. The second figure reflects the 2016 Total Contribution including any employee match. 

As you can see, Norfolk Southern and its employees have been generous to the arts and other organizations in Hampton Roads. 

NOTE: Norfolk Southern Corporation’s public relations department did not respond to our request for comments. 

Academy of Music

$ 11,000

$ 22,000

ACCESS College Foundation , Inc.

$ 65,000

$ 65,000

American Guild of Organist

$ 2,500

$ 5,000

American Red Cross, Coastal Virginia Region

$ 20,000

$ 20,000

Army Transportation Museum Foundation

$ 100

$ 200

Boy Scouts of America – Tidewater Council

$ 5,000

$ 5,000

Business Consortium for Arts Support

$ 50,165

$ 50,165

Cape Henry Collegiate School Inc

$ 5,000

$ 10,000

Chesapeake Bay Academy

$ 35,000

$ 70,000

Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters

$ 92,500

$ 92,500

Christopher Newport University Educational Foundation Inc

$ 250

$ 500

Chrysler Museum of Art

$ 154,351

$ 208,702

College of William & Mary Foundation

$ 35,212

$ 70,424

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

$ 46,660

$ 68,320

Downtown Norfolk Council

$ 7,000

$ 7,000

Eastern Virginia Medical School Foundation

$ 20,100

$ 30,200

Elizabeth River Project

$ 49,850

$ 64,700

Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia

$ 100,000

$ 100,000

General Douglas MacArthur Foundation

$ 1,000

$ 2,000

Governor’s School for the Arts

$ 18,992

$ 32,984

Hampton Roads Educational Telecommunications Assoc Inc

$ 22,765

$ 45,530

Hampton Roads Pride

$ 2,500

$ 2,500

Hermitage Foundation

$ 7,089

$ 14,178

Hope House Foundation

$ 20,000

$ 20,000

HORIZONS HAMPTON ROADS

$ 15,000

$ 15,000

Jamestown Yorktown Foundation Inc

$ 21,500

$ 25,500

Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia

$ 10,000

$ 10,000

Lynnhaven River Now

$ 100

$ 200

Mariners ‘ Museum

$ 1,450

$ 2,900

Marshall -Wythe School of Law

$ 67,500

$ 85,000

Meals of Virginia Beach Inc.

$ 15,000

$ 15,000

Military Aviation Museum

$ 1,000

$ 2,000

Muscarelle Museum of Art Foundation

$ 2,750

$ 5,500

Nansemond -Suffolk Academy Association Incorporated

$ 250

$ 500

Nauticus

$ 1,500

$ 3,000

Norfolk (City of)

$ 20,000

$ 20,000

Norfolk Academy

$ 20,030

$ 40,060

Norfolk Botanical Garden Society, Inc.

$ 3,600

$ 7,200

Norfolk Christian Schools

$ 700

$ 1,400

Norfolk Senior Center

$ 2,500

$ 2,500

Norfolk State University Foundation

$ 17,250

$ 19,500

Old Dominion University

$ 51,100

$ 57,200

Sandler Center for the Performing Arts

$ 5,000

$ 8,000

Slover Library Foundation

$ 50,000

$ 50,000

The Hurrah Players

$ 10,000

$ 10,000

The UP Center

$ 2,500

$ 2,500

Tidewater Friends of Folk Music

$ 250

$ 500

Todd Rosenlieb Dance

$ 700

$ 1,400

United Way of South Hampton Roads

$ 262,900

$ 262,900

Virginia Aquarium

$ 25,000

$ 25,000

Virginia Arts Festival

$ 134,000

$ 134,000

Virginia Beach Symphony Orchestra

$ 2,950

$ 5,900

Virginia Children’s Chorus

$ 400

$ 800

Virginia Chorale

$ 1,150

$ 2,300

Virginia Institute of Marine Science Foundation

$ 5,000

$ 10,000

Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)

$ 1,250

$ 2,500

Virginia Opera Association

$ 101,570

$ 119,140

Virginia Stage Company

$ 91,671

$ 99,342

Virginia Symphony

$ 130,118

$ 176,236

Virginia Wesleyan College

$ 27,500

$ 55,000

Virginia Zoological Society

$ 5,000

$ 5,000

Western Tidewater Free Clinic

$ 10,000

$ 10,000

WHRO

$ 20,000

$ 20,000

Williams School

$ 13,325

$ 26,650

Young Audiences of Virginia Inc

$ 2,156

$ 4,312

YWCA of South Hampton Roads

$ 37,500

$ 37,500

Grand Total

$ 1,963,204

$ 2,388,343