Michael Sussman is the founder and chairman/CEO of Strategic Rail Finance. Strategic Rail Finance has coordinated financing for rail-related projects in 32 states, expanding capitalization through effective integration of private- and public-sector funding sources. In 2007, Michael founded OnTrackAmerica, a 501c3 transportation policy development organization, dedicated to improving the continent’s freight transportation system through public- and private-sector collaboration and cooperation. Michael’s innovative thinking has earned him the ongoing respect and ear of Congressional and Executive Branch leaders and staff. His thoughtful, non-partisan message resonates with both Republican and Democratic audiences. Michael’s thought-leadership and relationship-building has resulted in many contributions to the history of freight transportation,
Taylor was an executive consultant with Strategic Rail Finance, managing a diverse portfolio of key customers, before taking the helm of Strategic Rail Industrial. Taylor is also a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force Reserve.
Taylor creates customer-driven solutions for industrial shippers, including the engagement in which he aided a struggling short line through the bankruptcy of its largest customer by renegotiating agreements to keep a 40,000 carload/year shipper and recovering pre-bankruptcy revenue.
As Commander of the 932 Civil Engineer Squadron at Scott AFB, Mr. Rich runs a 132-Airman unit comparable in scope to a Navy ship and is capable of air base design, construction, and operation under wartime conditions.
Previously, Taylor was Manager of Service and Design for Lafarge North America where he negotiated annual contracts for $45M in trucking (50 specialized carriers) at 32 terminals across the Midwest and Northeast. He also developed the multi-modal, truck/ barge solution for the construction of the $4B Tappan Zee bridge. Before joining LaFarge, Taylor was the Regional Operations Manager for Matheson Tri-Gas where he consolidated 7 disconnected sites across 3 states into an integrated network with benchmark-setting performance.
Taylor is a registered professional engineer in the state of Colorado and is a graduate of Air Command and Staff College as well as the Squadron Officer School. He also holds a Master’s degree in International Politics and Business from New York University and two Bachelor of Science degrees from Ohio State University: Industrial and Systems Engineering and Business Administration with a focus on Logistics and Marketing.
Senior Vice President/ Treasurer
John Elliott is a seasoned development executive with broad experience across private and public sectors.In addition to his role at SRI, John serves as President of Strategic Rai Finance.
Before joining SRF, John was CEO of North Pier Energy; a company developing small-scale LNG plants that convert shale gas to fuel for high-horsepower engines and isolated industrial applications.
From 2008 to 2014, John was the President and CEO of DevelopErie, where he headed Erie County’s lead economic development agencies, including four private non-profits and three public authorities. During his time there, he closed 109 financings totaling over $101 million; raised $6 million in new capital; obtained US Treasury CDFI certification for the Enterprise Development Fund; among numerous other achievements.
John has held previous roles at the City of Erie Redevelopment Authority as Executive Director; Urban Engineers, Inc. as Senior Project Manager; and Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr and Huber, Inc., as Civil Engineer/Project Manager.
He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Calvin College and his Master of Science in Civil Engineering from Michigan State University. John has been licensed as a professional engineer in both Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Vice President of Operations
David Steffens has extensive experience in logistics and supply chain innovation, and he founded or co-founded multiple successful businesses in the transportation and logistics sectors. His most recent company before joining SRF, Keystone Transportation Solutions, addressed the systemic inefficiencies in logistics practices plaguing US forest and agricultural exporters, with specific focus on bulk-2-container transloading and multimodal transportation strategies. Steffens was previously Managing Partner at New Hope Capital Partners where he focused on disruptive supply chain initiatives, intermodal transportation strategies and infrastructure. Steffens also founded and served as President and COO of Certicell, a leading provider of supply chain services and 3rd party after-market asset management to the wireless device industry. Steffens also founded Environmental Reclamation Services, Inc, where he launched his “reverse logistics” protocol to the after-market product and repair industry. In each of these leadership roles, Steffens realized significant revenue growth due largely to innovative service offerings that had bottom-line impact for his customers, leading to highly successful business exits. Steffens received his Bachelor of Business Administration, Accounting in 1989 from Rider University.
Chief Commercial Officer
An expert in supply chain management, logistics, and planning, Jonathan Gilbert comes to Strategic Rail Industrial with over 25 years of experience in improving service, reducing costs, increasing efficiency, and integrating new technologies in diverse industries. Specializing in strategic sourcing, network optimization, and operations improvement, Jonathan is a founder of the Gilbert Sachs Group and has advised major national and international retailers, distributors, manufacturers, and service companies on transportation, logistics and infrastructure development. Recent clients include Modesto & Empire Traction, Con-Way Truckload, Clean Earth, Commercial Metals Company, United Technologies, Celanese Corporation, Tenneco and Marathon Oil. Prior to his work as a consultant, Mr. Gilbert served as Vice President of Logistics and Planning for NuCO2 of Stuart, Florida, a $135 million company supplying carbonation and Co2 to the food and beverage industry. Mr. Gilbert managed all forecasting, planning, and scheduling of product delivery and field services. Before his work with NuCO2, Mr. Gilbert held leadership positions at MF Electronics, BOC Group, and Pyle Corporation building his career in logistics, supply management, marketing and planning. Additionally, Mr. Gilbert is a Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals member and former Vice President of the New Jersey and New York Chapter of the American Society of Transportation and Logistics. Mr. Gilbert holds a B.S. from the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University and an M.B.A. from the Stern School of Business at New York University.
Trish Haver is a Senior Consultant with Strategic Rail Industrial. Trish brings to SRI a background in executive leadership, development, and market strategy. Specializing in strategic industrial planning, 3P, business development, and supply chain, Trish has advised major intermodal service providers, industrial manufacturers, railroads and port authorities around the country on transportation, logistics and infrastructure development. Prior to joining Strategic Rail, Trish was the Vice President of Strategy and Industrial Development at the Port of New Orleans and New Orleans Public Belt Railroad. Within nine months of starting the position, she helped transform the railroad from having a negative projected profit to a positive projected profit forecasted at over $6 million and won a federal CRISI grant for the New Orleans Gateway Capacity Improvement Project, a first for NOPB. Before her time with the Port of New Orleans, Trish held multiple positions during her 21 years with Norfolk Southern Railroad, most notably as Senior Port Development Manager, representing NS with port authorities, port customers and private terminals. Tasked with supporting and growing the Class I’s $2 billion international freight portfolio, Trish directed the planning efforts for major projects to improve strategic positioning and steward financial assets. Trish holds an MBA from Old Dominion University with a concentration in Ports and Maritime Operation and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of William and Mary.
Senior Transportation and Financial Analyst
Reuben Vabner spent the first 30 years of his career in the equipment leasing/equipment finance industry where he financed all kinds of equipment, from railroad equipment to manufacturing plants, using various techniques all the way up to the most complicated leveraged leases. The last ten years he has been Sr. Director- Corporate Finance at Amtrak and has managed a debt book that started out as $3.2Billion of leases, debt, and bonds when he started in July 2007 but which he whittled down to $1.2 Billion outstanding within 5-6 years. Reuben also arranged a variety of new facilities including: (1) A $360 Million commercial paper program; (2) A $100 Million five year bank revolving credit facility; (3) $365 Million in Equipment Trust Certificates collateralized with passenger rail equipment and rated ‘AA’ by Moody’s. These certificates were placed long-term with insurance companies and were the first instance of passenger rail equipment being used as collateral on Equipment Trust Certificates: (4) Reuben negotiated, documented and closed two out of three of the biggest RRIF Loan ever done; i.e., (i) a $563Million loan commitment in 2011; and, (ii) a $2.45 Billion RRIF loan commitment executed in August 2016; (5) Various secured term loans at favorable rates with various banks as well as refinancing private activity bonds, also at very favorable rates; e.g., one private activity bond was called and refinanced at 2.39%. Reuben was educated at Lehigh University and then received an MBA in Finance from New York University.
Finance and Transportation Analyst
Daneen Small is a Finance and Transportation Analyst at Strategic Rail Industrial where she provides financial analysis, valuation, and business modeling. She is a graduate of Temple University’s Fox School of Business in Philadelphia, PA with a Master of Science in Financial Analysis and Quantitative Risk Management. While earning her Master’s degree, Daneen worked as a research analyst with Berkadia Commercial Mortgage LLC. Daneen also holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics, Applied Mathematics and Statistics from Stony Brook University.