Jim Young — an inclusive innovator

Earlier this month, we announced that Union Pacific Corp. Chairman Jim Young was the recipient of our 2012 "Railroad Innovator Award," which recognizes an individual's outstanding achievement in the rail industry. A few weeks before that, I talked with Jim for a piece I did on his rail career and accomplishments. I'd talked with him before, and in every instance, he was focused, forthright, full of energy and above all, inclusive — a lot more "we" than "I," and that "we" applied to UP employees, UP customers, the communities the Class I serves and, at times, the rail industry in general. This particular conversation I had with Jim, even though it was an interview for a story about him, was no different. Predictably, he talked more about UP's evolution and growth — and the rail industry's — than his own role in helping UP get to where it is today. But his mark he's made is indelible.

Young's drive to make UP a customer-first railroad by emphasizing what's vital to most shippers — consistent operational performance and more tailored service — stands out, customers and colleagues tell me. During the past decade, he helped convince UP's board to invest billions in the railroad to ensure it has the capacity to meet customers' needs and expectations. And he's spearheaded a culture change designed to help North America's largest railroad hire and retain top talent, as well as keep current and future UP leaders engaged with employees and customers alike. Earlier this year, he took a medical leave from his president/CEO duties while he is being treated for diagnosed pancreatic cancer, but he continues to help keep the Class I and its 25,000 customers on the incremental improvement path.

Jim won't be able to accept the Railroad Innovator Award in person at RailTrends 2012 on Nov. 1, but we'll recognize his accomplishments, focus, energy and inclusiveness at our annual New York City event. And going forward, we'll continue to acknowledge, learn from and share the contributions Jim makes to UP and the industry at large.

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