California Manufacturers & Technology Association - 2019 Guide - 10

CMTA

If North America
were a factory,
Union Pacific would
be its biggest
conveyor belt

MEMBER

by Ana Swanson - New York Times
2018

B

ased in Omaha, the company operates the largest

United States meet, including Union Pacific, Norfolk South-

rail network on the continent, a conduit that pro-

ern and Canadian National. Here, roughly 300 workers move

vides us with cereal, lumber, car parts and pretty

containers of barbecue grills, soybeans and socks from

much everything that touches our lives. That makes the

trains to trucks. Some of those trucks head out on the nearby

railroad a real-time barometer of the fluctuations in global

tangle of interstate highways for multiday trips across the

trade - a physical manifestation of how President Trump's

country. Some drive for Rust Belt factories or nearby ware-

agenda to remake the rules of commerce will play out.

houses for Walmart and Dollar Tree.

Roughly 40 percent of the goods that Union Pacific
moves touch an international border at some point in their
journey, putting the railroad at the center of the global

helping to build the first transcontinental railroad. Over the

tensions that have arisen as the administration prepares

decades since, the company chiseled new rail lines out of im-

to impose tariffs on goods from China and steel and

passable terrain and swallowed up its competitors. Today, the

aluminum from around the world. Seventy percent of rail
freight between the United States and Mexico travels on
Union Pacific trains, meaning the outcome of the tense
renegotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement will shape the company's future.
"At its guts, a railroad like Union Pacific is built on
people consuming stuff, industry consuming stuff, and
trade flows," said Lance Fritz, Union Pacific's chief executive. "When those are happening and growing, we thrive.
And all of that potentially gets impacted by getting NAFTA
wrong or the United States exiting NAFTA."
These global forces all converge outside Chicago,
where six of the seven largest railroads operating in the

PAGE

10

Union Pacific was created in 1862, when Abraham
Lincoln ordered the company to open the American West by

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