Railway Age Honors Laura McNichol

November 2021 – When the opportunity arose a few months ago to nominate a woman to be recognized for achievements in the rail industry, Laura McNichol’s name quickly surfaced.

And based on her leadership and contributions, Watco’s Senior Vice President for Government and Industry Relations was selected for this year’s Women in Rail awards, announced last month by trade publication Railway Age.

McNichol said it “felt a little embarrassing given all the attention,” but “I was really pleased that Watco gets some well-earned good press out of it, too. The truth is this company gives you many ways to find success, and for that I am very grateful.” She also noted that her successes are part of a team effort and could not be accomplished without others.
“It’s typical of Laura to share credit with other people,” said Chief Executive Officer Dan Smith, “and that’s just one reason she’s such a good Watco teammate. She’s distinguished herself at Watco, in the industry, with elected officials, and others. So it’s great she’s being recognized in this way.”
Since joining Watco in 2017, McNichol has earned a reputation as a federal grant guru. She is given much credit for securing Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grants awarded by the Federal Railroad Administration, including a couple of sizable ones for Watco’s South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad and Eastern Idaho Railroad. These are among many federal grants (CRISI and TIGER), totaling $66 million in infrastructure improvements, that Laura has helped acquire. She also has been instrumental in securing several million dollars in state grants and tax credits that benefit railroads and communities throughout the country.

McNichol’s efforts also were essential in helping establish the permanency of the 45G tax credit, providing short line railroads with a critical ongoing ability to invest in infrastructure improvements. She was among those who worked to ensure the credit, which had been extended multiple times over the years, made it into the tax code going forward without an expiration date.

McNichol has worked in the industry for 15 years and serves in several leadership roles for the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association and the Association of American Railroads. She will participate as a panelist discussing railroad-government affairs at the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) annual conference in January.

Read about others like Laura who are making a difference at Watco and beyond. Learn More