Keynote Speakers

Monday Railway Interchange Opening General Session Keynote Speaker

Ken Schmidt

Ken Schmidt
Former Director of Communications
Harley-Davidson Motor Company

One of the most in-demand speakers and communications consultants in America, Ken Schmidt has lived a life that most can only dream about. He has toured the world on two wheels, met with presidents and royalty, partied with movie and music legends, and appeared numerous times on network news. As the former director of communications for Harley-Davidson Motor Company, he played an active role in one of the most celebrated turnarounds in corporate history – and got paid to ride motorcycles. He is widely known as one of the business world’s most outspoken and provocative thought leaders and has partnered with many of the world’s most successful brands. He shares stories and insights on the road to building a fanatically vocal customer base, creating a passionately loyal corporate culture, and developing leaders who inspire and motivate.

Harley-Davidson. The longtime motorcycle enthusiast’s formal association with Harley-Davidson began in 1985. As a specialist in corporate positioning and media relations, Schmidt was asked to work with the then-struggling Harley-Davidson to help restore the company’s image and create demand for its motorcycles. Within a few short years, Harley-Davidson became one of the most visible and frequently reported-on companies in the world, while sales of its motorcycles rocketed upward. Schmidt became director of Harley-Davidson’s corporate and financial communications and served as its primary spokesperson to the media and the financial communities. He appeared numerous times on network news programs and was frequently called upon by business media to share his insights on non-traditional communications, customer attraction, and brand-building.

Life After Harley. Now, Schmidt is a frequent speaker to business groups and academic communities throughout the world. Few speakers generate more positive word-of-mouth and referrals. "I love to startle people by exposing them to proven ideas and concepts they’ve never imagined," he said. Whether he’s talking about how to leverage basic needs to improve competitiveness, build an entirely new corporate culture, or reach out to new customers in completely untraditional ways, Schmidt never follows a predictable course. "Whether I’m talking about how perfectly average people can do extraordinary things or how to build an entirely new corporate culture, rekindle relationships with customers, or reach out to new ones in completely untraditional ways, I’m teaching people to throw conventional approaches out the window. I see opening hearts and minds as my life’s work."

Today, Schmidt shares his expertise with many of America’s leading brands but happily states that he is "semi-retired," which allows him to pursue his other passions. He calls working with the grandson of one of Harley-Davidson’s founders to create 100 Years of Harley-Davidson, the best-selling motor sports book of all time, one of the greatest highs in his life. After all he has accomplished his philosophy of life and business hasn’t changed: "Never do what’s expected, make yourself as noticeably different as possible, and have a lot more fun than you’re supposed to."




Tuesday Annual Committee Chairs Luncheon Keynote Speaker

Michael Wheeler

Michael J. Wheeler
Executive Vice President & COO
Norfolk Southern Corporation

Michael J. Wheeler is the Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer for Norfolk Southern Corporation. He was born in Oakridge, Tennessee and earned a BS degree in Metallurgical Engineering from the University of Tennessee and an MBA in Business Administration from Virginia Tech.

Mike began his career with Norfolk Southern in 1985 as an Assistant Research Engineer in the Engineering & Research Department and has held numerous positions since. He has held positions such as Materials Engineer, Metallurgical Engineer, Wheel Shop Superintendent in the Mechanical Department, Superintendent Wheel Shop, Trainmaster in the Transportation Department, Assistant Superintendent and Superintendent of Terminals, Illinois Division, Assistant Division Superintendent, Piedmont Division, Division Superintendent, Pocahontas Division, General Manager Mechanical Field Operations in the Mechanical Department, General Manager, Eastern and Western Regions in the Transportation Department, Vice President Transportation, Vice President Engineering, Senior Vice President Operations and now his current position.

Mike was the 2016 Chairman of the AAR Safety & Operations Management Committee (SOMC) and a past Governor on the AREMA Board of Governors. He is a past Board Member of The Belt Railway Company of Chicago and also a past Board Member/President of the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad Company.

Mike and his wife, Dana, live in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with their two teenaged daughters.




Wednesday Closing General Session Keynote Speaker

Tony Hatch

Anthony B. Hatch
Transportation Industry Analyst
ABH Consulting

Anthony “Tony” Hatch has been a Senior Transportation Analyst on Wall Street for over thirty years, starting at major financial institutions (Salomon Brothers; Argus, PaineWebber, NatWest Markets) prior to starting his independent analyst/consultancy in 1999, working with partners (MillerTabak and now CV Brokerage). Mr. Hatch's coverage has been focused on the freight transportation segment, particularly surface transportation. Mr. Hatch is known for his knowledge of the intermodal area, where the various modes of freight transport converge, on which he has held several dozen specialized conferences.

Mr. Hatch has been providing not only “traditional” institutional transport research but also providing “bespoke” research such as due diligence and other services to “new” players in transport investment such as private equity, infrastructure and hedge funds in such areas as intermodal, rail maintenance and construction, railcars and 3pls. He has created a series of research partnerships such as with PLG Consulting (2015) on petrochemical transport, and an equity marketing partnership with CV Securities. Along with Progressive Railroading magazine he co-founded, co-presents and leads “Railtrends”, the most comprehensive railway conference every fall in NYC.

With over a quarter century’s experience in the field, Mr. Hatch has been active as an independent analyst and consultant, as well as doing specific research-related work for major railroads in North America as well as in Brazil, China, the UK, India and especially, Australia, in addition to working with various trade and government organizations such as the Association of American Railroads, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, the United Transportation Union, the Canadian Transportation Agency, the Railway Association of Canada, the Intermodal Association of North America, the North American Association of Rail Shippers, AREMA/NRC/RSI, the Railway Association of the UK, Australian Railways, Rail Inc./Steel Roads, various other freight shipper and supplier organizations (including NITL, NGFA, and NEARS/SEARS/MARS/SWARS, etc), and management consulting firms such as Oliver Wyman/Mercer Management, and Mitchell Madison Group/USWeb. He has also worked with an extensive list of private equity/infrastructure firms in the space, both here and globally.

Mr. Hatch, when directly on “The Street”, was named to various honor rolls, including the Institutional Investor (“II”) and Wall Street Journal All Star Teams and he has garnered the top spot in the prestigious Greenwich Poll. He is a Past President of the Motor Carrier Analysts Association. His career highlight had been testifying before Congress on railroads, starting in 1998, among other testimonies.

Mr. Hatch graduated from Harvard College with an A.B. in American History in 1982. He lives in New York City, and enjoys baseball (watching – LA Dodgers - and playing), English soccer (Spurs), history, US, Canadian & UK politics, and sports cars.