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Rail safety on the menu as City’s partnership with CN Railway rolls on at a barbecue fest

Five years ago, CN Railway decided it wanted more visibility in Greater Memphis and a “great deal more awareness around rail safety.” There also were strategic messages the Canadian-based company wanted to deliver about its commitment to diversity.

That’s why Roquita Coleman Williams was brought on board. A solutions manager for CN Supply Chain Solutions, Williams says her presence is a reflection of CN’s commitment to promoting and attracting women to the railroad, “women of color especially.”

Memphis is a strategic point for CN (Canadian National). Thus the push to make sure the message was particularly clear in the Bluff City.

Williams was given the green light to establish strategic relationships. One of her first moves was on the City of Memphis Mayor’s Office. CN became the first railroad to partner with the office. An annual public expression of that partnership unfolded again Wednesday evening at the onset of the Memphis in May International Festival World Barbecue Cooking Contest, which begins Thursday (May 14) and stretches through Saturday.

City employees were invited to the City of Memphis tent area. CN backs the city’s presence as a sponsor and foots the bill.

“We get a chance to deliver some real messages around our presence in the community, our commitment to the city, our commitment to leadership and diversity,” said Williams.

CN’s face and ambassador in Memphis, Williams is passionate about being an advocate for women and the growth of women in the transportation industry.

Two weeks ago, CN held its annual general meeting at the Peabody, the first time its been held here in seven years.

“It was a statement about our commitment to the city,” said Williams, “and also we made a contribution of $100,000 to Le Bonheur (Children’s Hospital). Earlier in the year we did a match where employees made contributions and (CN) made a match of that, raising $800,000 for St. Jude.t, raising $800,000 for St. Jude.

Memphis has not historically been a huge point of visibility for CN. Williams’ job is to lead the change so CN is not just pulling trains in and out of the city, but rather is a part of the city and recognized as such.

City employees, Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and members of his administration, and other elected officials mixed with CN employees, members of CN’s management team and representatives of the firm’s Canadian operation at Wednesday’s affair.

“We wanted to highlight rail safety, especially with the recent incidents around safety,” said Williams, noting a man hit by a train while jogging earlier in the year. “That really brought to the forefront how much more attention we need to pay to telling the community about rail safety.”

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