Norris, Conference Enhance IFTI Mission

On October 27, 2010, in News 2010, by Mark Norris

Sarah Baker, The Daily News
October 27, 2010

When it comes to logistics and distribution capabilities, Memphis’ leverage lies in the four Rs – roads, river, railway and runway.

The University of Memphis adds to the city’s viability in those industries with its Intermodal Freight Transportation Institute (IFTI), a public-private partnership that deals with myriad issues surrounding the movement of goods.

IFTI recently bolstered its standing – and further strengthened the university’s competitive network – by appointing Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris to its executive board, In his professional life, Norris is an attorney with the transportation law practice group of Adams and Reese LLP and is a member of the Transportation Lawyers Association.

In addition to his legal background, Norris was elected to the Tennessee Senate in 2000 and became majority leader in 2007. Formerly a two-term member of the Shelby County Commission, Norris also recently served as chair of the Transportation Policy Task Force of the Council of State Governments.

Due to his extensive resume, Norris sees transportation from various levels. And he understands that Memphis’ “perfectly situated” geographic location makes the city one of the world’s logistics capitals.

“It’s where we are, what we are and who we are,” Norris said.

Norris could not fathom a better venue than the U of M to address local logistical challenges, and his position on the board will aid in IFTI’s mission.

Underwritten in part by Canadian National Railway Co. and FedEx, the U of M-based institute is a dynamic program that is well-situated to deliver results, Norris said.

Among Norris’ goals are to decide what programs can be provided at the university that help local logistics and business and industry prosper.

“As a member of the board I hope I can help develop additional focus that’s needed to provide value-added here, from the standpoint of private or governmental entities who want to contract with the university to do research and development or from the instructional side,” Norris said. “It’s potentially a win-win for everybody.”

Dr. Martin Lipinski, director of IFTI and a U of M professor, said Norris’ involvement establishing partnerships with the university goes back a number of years.

“He was involved with us when we were in discussions with the state of Tennessee Department of Transportation and helped us to make some contacts in Nashville,” Lipinski said.

Norris served two years as the chairman of the Tennessee Senate Transportation Committee and he also is on several legislative bodies representing the entire southeast U.S. on transportation issues.

“(Norris) brings the view of a very knowledgeable elected official – what they perceive as some of the burning transportation issues today, how to make our system more economically competitive, how to restructure our infrastructure, and at the same time, doing it all with limited resources,” Lipinski said.

One of IFTI’s biggest events – a yearly conference discussing critical issues facing the transportation industry – is slated for this Friday.

The IFTI’s fourth annual Intermodal Conference will be held at the FedEx Institute of Technology on the U of M campus from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

“The conference is an opportunity to showcase the features of this area, but also provides a forum for folks in this field to pull their resources and exchange information, and that’s always a profitable endeavor,” Norris said.

The conference features an impressive lineup of speakers, including U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis; Randy Resor, policy analyst at the Office of the Secretary of Transportation; and Randy Butler, transportation specialist of Office of Freight Management and Operations at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

This year’s event will also serve as the fourth quarter meeting of the Greater Memphis Chamber’s logistics council. For more information about the conference, visit

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