By Jeff Maisey
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
ACCESS College Foundation , Inc.
American Guild of Organist
American Red Cross, Coastal Virginia Region
Army Transportation Museum Foundation
Boy Scouts of America – Tidewater Council
Business Consortium for Arts Support
Cape Henry Collegiate School Inc
Chesapeake Bay Academy
Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters
Christopher Newport University Educational Foundation Inc
Chrysler Museum of Art
College of William & Mary Foundation
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Downtown Norfolk Council
Eastern Virginia Medical School Foundation
Elizabeth River Project
Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia
General Douglas MacArthur Foundation
Governor’s School for the Arts
Hampton Roads Educational Telecommunications Assoc Inc
Hampton Roads Pride
Hope House Foundation
HORIZONS HAMPTON ROADS
Jamestown Yorktown Foundation Inc
Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia
Lynnhaven River Now
Mariners ‘ Museum
Marshall -Wythe School of Law
Meals of Virginia Beach Inc.
Military Aviation Museum
Muscarelle Museum of Art Foundation
Nansemond -Suffolk Academy Association Incorporated
Norfolk (City of)
Norfolk Botanical Garden Society, Inc.
Norfolk Christian Schools
Norfolk Senior Center
Norfolk State University Foundation
Old Dominion University
Sandler Center for the Performing Arts
Slover Library Foundation
The Hurrah Players
The UP Center
Tidewater Friends of Folk Music
Todd Rosenlieb Dance
United Way of South Hampton Roads
Virginia Arts Festival
Virginia Beach Symphony Orchestra
Virginia Children’s Chorus
Virginia Institute of Marine Science Foundation
Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
Virginia Opera Association
Virginia Stage Company
Virginia Wesleyan College
Virginia Zoological Society
Western Tidewater Free Clinic
Young Audiences of Virginia Inc
YWCA of South Hampton Roads