An elegant plan, expertly executed

Execu/Net educational design incorporates outdoor learning

I love tales about well-designed plans executed with skill. There’s something appealing about success stories about companies like Southwest Airlines, Cirque du Soleil and Apple—all businesses led by visionary leaders who set in motion strategies that helped all the necessary pieces fall into place. Another great example that’s discussed much less often is the Great Northern Railway, the only successful, privately funded transcontinental railroad.

Built in the late 1800s by magnate James J. Hill without the benefit of federal land grants, the Great Northern Railway’s main line ran from my hometown of St. Paul, Minn., to Seattle. Hill opted to build his railway in stages—ensuring that each new line was profitable before expanding farther—a strategy that avoided excessive debt.

Through smart acquisitions, the purchase of federal lands, the subsequent sale of those lands to farmers and smart reinvestment, the Great Northern Railway eventually expanded to over 8,000 miles of lines. One of these ran through Northwestern Montana, an area known as “The Crown of the Continent.” Hill and his son Louis had a vision that The Crown of the Continent also be known the “Playground of the Northwest.” They petitioned Congress to designate the area as a national park and, in 1910, President Taft signed the legislation creating Glacier National Park.

continue reading »

More News