All it took was one person having a 10-minute conversation with a decision-maker at a happy hour in San Diego.
The sales pitch over appetizers certainly worked its magic. That simple effort two years ago has resulted in the announcement that the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA), located in Washington, D.C., will be hosting its annual three-day 1,000-person convention here in September 2022. The organization plays a vital role in operating 50,000 miles of track – 40 percent – of the national railroad network, with the majority of it connecting farmers, manufacturers and consumers with just about anything from produce and beer to lumber and shampoo.
“During my brief conversation with the event planner, I discovered that St. Louis wasn’t even on the radar in terms of serving as a convention host city,” said Asim Raza, Chief Legal Officer, Director of Corporate Affairs for the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis for the past 10 years.
Four cities within driving distance of St. Louis were, though, and Raza immediately starting talking up his hometown and its tremendous historical significance within the transportation industry.
“And why not?” he said. “Our river, rails and roads have played a historically vital role as a transportation hub, starting with the country’s Westward expansion and continuing through today with product transport. Between Class 1 freight and Amtrak, St. Louis truly is a gateway.”
For him, his St. Louis pitch was a no-brainer. Immediately following that brief conversation, the ASLRRA convention organizer reached out to Explore St. Louis requesting a proposal for St. Louis to be featured as one of its potential host cities. Working closely with the DC-based group, Explore St. Louis then hosted a site visit where Raza was invited to join the local pitch team to help sell the virtues of St. Louis.
“Asim was a huge part of our decision to have our annual conference in St. Louis,” said Amy Westerman, vice president of meetings for the ASLRRA. “He brought up the idea of St. Louis and he really stuck with it. In addition, having him join us during the site visit was extremely helpful for me as the meeting planner to a get a member’s perspective. We look forward to being under the Arch next spring.”
“I’m just one of two million St. Louis residents – all of us ambassadors – who have the ability to take this city to the next level,” he said. “Each one of us has the potential to be a difference-maker. If you’re passionate about this city, selling the city is not work. It’s what you do.”
Over the coming months, Raza will work with his D.C. railway colleagues and representatives at Explore St. Louis and America’s Center to craft a unique experience for the convention members that will showcase St. Louis as an incredible host with opportunities for endless adventure. Raza is already brainstorming possibilities.
Perhaps a ride on an historic rail car from Union Station to the iconic Arch would be the icing on the cake. A sweet culmination of a journey that started at a happy hour just two years ago.