Business Development Award

Celebrating customer service and successful marketing concepts and techniques in the small railroad industry.


The ASLRRA Business Development Award Competition recognizes the Class II and III railroads that have designed and enacted the most innovative and successful business-building initiatives in the small railroad industry. Criteria for the ASLRRA Business Development Award can be found here. Please contact Amy Krouse with any questions.

Past Winners


Congratulations to our 2024 Business Development Award Winners!


Indiana Rail Road – Capitalizing on Market Conditions with a Strategic Build-out

In 2013, INRD established an "all-rail" option for trans-Pacific import and export freight moving to and from Indiana via west coast ports with the completion of a modern and user-friendly intermodal hub. Conversations with customers, and eastern seaboard port trends indicated an opportunity to replicate the west coast port capabilities to develop a coast-to-coast solution. 

The INRD committed to a multi-year, $6.5 million project build which would increase capacity for west-coast traffic and include new east-coast lanes at its Senate Avenue Terminal. Twelve acres of adjacent land, formerly an unsightly auto salvage yard, were cleared for the expansion, increasing 40-foot equivalent units (FEU) capacity from 40,000 to 120,000.  An additional six acres were procured to allow for an empty container and chassis depot, helping customers to improve fluidity of shipments and reduce handling costs.

After completion of the expansion, and the addition of the equipment depot, the Indiana Rail Road posted an 80% increase in volume in 2023.  Intermodal volume doubled, export container volume tripled, and new jobs were created. The completed project established the Senate Avenue Terminal as the premier intermodal facility in Indiana, and it is the only dual-serviced intermodal facility in the Midwest.



Indiana & Ohio Railway – Supporting a Key Customer’s Growth Opportunity

In March 2023, the Indiana & Ohio Railway (IORY), a subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming (G&W), was approached with a challenge to solve for long standing customer North Star BlueScope Recycling, a full-service scrap metal recycler with processing facilities in Waterloo, Indiana, and Delta, Ohio.

The opportunity was driven by sister company North Star BlueScope Steel, who had increased steel coil output by 25%. The steel mill needed an increasing amount of inbound raw materials from BlueScope Recycling to service the demand.

BlueScope Steel recognized the positive environmental impact and sustainability of moving freight by rail – even for very short distances. The Ohio Rail Development Commission was enthusiastic about the project, as it would reduce congestion on Ohio 109 and around the mill, while also reducing emissions and truck accidents.

Although the mill had a working rail spur to offer, securing cars and a schedule to make this project work took creativity and coordination.  The cars were located on another G & W railroad’s  property, and delivered by Class I interchange partner CSX.  Three strings of seven cars are rotated two times per week, delivering 42 carloads from BlueScope recycling to BlueScope Steel.

The project was a win-win for the customer and the railroad. Three crew members were added, carloads from BlueScope Recycling increased 63%, and 3,700 truckloads were eliminated from the surrounding highways. An additional seven-car string has been requested to support demand.

IORY anticipates a 25% increase in carloads in 2024 – which could remove a total of 4,625 truckloads from the road annually.


Mission Mountain Railroad – Reinventing a Railroad from the Ground Up

In 2023, the Mission Mountain Railroad (MMT) faced a harsh reality: adapt or potentially shut down. Prior to April 2020, the MMT operated 40 track miles in northern Montana. The 14-mile southern branch between Columbia Falls and Kalispell was returned to BNSF at the end of a lease agreement, along with most of the customer base, a new industrial park in Kalispell, and 80% of annual revenue. The team was reduced from 13 to three people who worked as-needed for the sole remaining customer on the company-owned 26-mile section, a transloading yard that sits adjacent to the Eureka depot, primarily handling lumber. In early 2023, the transload owner was also ready to leave the business. Rather than give up, the MMT team opted to figure out how to save their railroad, the terminal, and help their small town.

Using their strong relationship with both the BNSF, and the transloading customer, The MMT eyed the Canada to U.S. lumber market that was shipping by truck across a nearby international point-of-entry, converting traffic to rail and opening the U.S. markets in Texas and Arizona to Canadian lumber shippers.  MMT leveraged the purchase of the transload operation to create a new local opportunity – the direct sales of lumber to contractors and builders. Short line ingenuity saved the Mission Mountain Railroad. Since October of 2023, the MMT has more than doubled their workforce, increased traffic by 50%, and increased revenues by 325%. By seizing an opportunity with Canadian lumber, expanding their operations to include its former transload customer, building relationships, and adding jobs, they are helping build their small community of 1,400.