Coalition Building to Help a Community


The City of Rochester faced a real threat from the Dakota Minnesota & Eastern (DM&E) Railroad’s plan to bring 1.5 mile long coal trains through the city of Rochester, MN at speeds up to 50 MPH, 34 times a day. With few grade separated crossings, traffic including ambulances would be delayed getting to the Mayo Clinic. The threat almost became a reality as DM&E closed in on a $2.3 billion dollar loan guarantee from the Federal Railroad Administration. A coalition of the City of Rochester, Olmsted County, Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce and Mayo Clinic retained members of the Velocity team in 2007 to build a coalition opposed to the increase in railroad traffic.


The Velocity team organized the Rochester Coalition, which had members in 65 cities and 3 states from Winona to Wyoming, creating awareness on the rail safety issue and loan guarantee through strategic communication initiatives with the business and residential communities. The Rochester Coalition managed a strategic integrated public affairs campaign that included lobbying, public relations.


The efforts of the Rochester Coalition ultimately led to the denial of the $2.3 billion federal loan guarantee in February of 2007, effectively killing the project. Two of the key reasons for this outcome included strong public opinion against and political opposition influenced the Washington bureaucracy.