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Meet Natalie E. Cornell!

Natalie E. Cornell
Director of Business Development
LTK Engineering Services
Ambler, PA
Member, APTA Board of Directors; chair, Business Member Procurement Committee; co-chair, Procurement Steering Committee; secretary, Rolling Stock Equipment Technical Forum; member, Fare Collection Systems Committee

Please describe LTK's scope.
LTK has been in business since 1921. It started out as a broad-based engineering firm. Over time it has focused on rail engineering in four areas: rail vehicles, rail systems, revenue management and technical systems, and operations planning and simulations.

LTK has about 360 employees, all in North America. We have a joint venture in Australia called NDYLTK, but that’s a separate operation.

LTK has been an independent company that whole time. We feel like we have a good niche as a specialty engineering firm. We have the largest number of rail engineers in any engineering firm in North America. There are bigger firms, but they don’t specialize in rail.

What drew you to the public transportation industry?
I started in 1985 with the Canadian Consulate in Chicago helping companies like Bombardier, New Flyer and others sell products and services in the Midwest. It was interesting, and I became sort of the “go-to” expert on Buy America, procurement and similar issues that helped Canadian suppliers do business in the U.S. I did that through the 1980s-’90s.

I went to A.T. Kearney, a global management and strategy consulting firm that handled big public transportation and logistics projects. The transportation practice worked in all types of transportation in the U.S. and globally—­airlines, freight, transit and so on. They covered everything.

I also worked at Accenture in its transportation practice and then in healthcare for five years or so. I got the chance to get back into transportation with the Japanese firm, LECIP Inc., which makes LED lights for trains and fareboxes. As their first U.S. employee, I worked to help establish its U.S. presence—to set up a beachhead in this market. So I’ve been fortunate to be on the leading edge of business development in new markets—it’s very exciting and interesting. I came up the ranks through marketing—specifically professional services marketing—to find myself where I am today.

Please describe your involvement with APTA and note what’s rewarding about it.
I’ve been associated with APTA as an EXPO exhibitor since my time with the Canadian Consulate, but because that was a government agency, I wasn’t involved with the Business Member Board of Governors. But we went to all the EXPOs and regularly attended many of the Annual Meetings.

LECIP was already an APTA member when I started there, and that’s when I got involved with the BMBG. I also got more involved in the bus and rail conferences, which were very helpful in connecting with vehicle suppliers, many of whom I already knew.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA resource?
APTA supports the person-to-person connections, the networking, which I appreciate. I use the member directory all the time. It’s a huge help in finding people.

At LECIP, when I was making calls on potential clients, I used the APTA Public Transportation Vehicle Database. I could open up an Excel spreadsheet, make a pivot table and see what companies might be ready for vehicle purchases or overhauls. It’s a huge help as a supplier.

What do you like most about your career?
Transit makes the world a better place and people in the industry are committed to that. It’s really nice to be involved in that. As a boomer—and like many millennials—I like work that has purpose and being affiliated with like-minded people.

It’s the chance to contribute to an industry that makes a positive difference in the world to so many people and to be part of a mission-driven community.

What is unique about LTK? What would readers be surprised to learn?
LTK’s people are very loyal—they leave to work at agencies or at competitors, but they often return. In addition, many people work here for all or most of their careers. We have more than a dozen people who have worked for LTK for 40 years, and one who just celebrated his 50th year with LTK.
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