Water Resource Management and Economics Conference kicks off at Troy University

Posted: Monday, 19 October 2015

PHENIX CITY – An East Alabamian will be honored for his lifetime of work in water resources conservation and the CEO of one of the world’s largest producers of paper and packaging solutions will deliver the keynote address during “The Business of Water” conference at Troy University.

The conference, hosted by the Sorrell College of Business’ Center for Water Resource Economics will take place Oct. 21-23 in Phenix City at TROY’s Riverfront Campus. In addition to the opening dinner and keynote address, the conference includes meetings of the Tri Rivers Waterway Development Association and the Alabama Clean Water Partnership.

Center for Water Resource Economics Director Billy Turner said the second annual conference focuses on addressing the importance of water for its economic impacts on the region.

“This year’s conference is particularly timely in that there are three major issues coming to bear on the actions that have been referred to as ‘The Water Wars’ which have been taking place for the past 30 years between Alabama, Florida and Georgia. This year, a new law suit was brought in the U.S. Supreme Court by Florida against Georgia; a stakeholder group has just released a Sustainable Water Management Plan calling for the creation of a multi-state and federal organization to better communicate issues; and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has just released a draft environmental impact statement for their new Water Control Manual that describes the basis of operation of their projects on the ACF river system,” Turner said.

WestRock CEO Steve Voorhees will deliver the keynote address during the opening banquet at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Phenix City, adjacent to TROY’s Riverfront Campus. Following the address Valley resident Allen Owen will be honored with the Don C. Hines Achievement Award in Water Resource Economics.

Owen, a member of the Troy University Board of Trustees since 1989, has been a key leader in supporting and promoting good economic decisions for Georgia and Alabama business through his role as governmental affairs manager for Mead and Westvaco (now WestRock). He has led many water-focused efforts to address issues in the ACF river system while serving as president of the Tri Rivers Waterway Development Association, and as a member of the Middle Chattahoochee Watership Coalition and the ACFStakeholders. Prior to his work with MeadWestvaco, he served on former Alabama Gov. Guy Hunt’s staff and spent 15 years with West Point Pepperell, Inc., in a variety management and executive roles, including legislative and public affairs.

“The Don Hines Award for Leadership in Water Resource Economics could not go to a more deserving person. Throughout his professional career, Allen provided essential leadership in advancing the importance of our water resources as a driver for local, state and regional economic development,” said Dr. Judson Edwards, Dean of the Sorrell College of Business.

Owen served in the United States Marine Corps from 1971 until 1974 as a first lieutenant, and in the Alabama National Guard from 1977 until retiring in 1999 as a lieutenant colonel. He holds undergraduate and two master’s degrees from Troy University. His wife, Annette, a former school administrator, holds undergraduate, master’s and educational specialist degrees from TROY, and the Owen’s two sons are also TROY alumni.

The Don Hines Award, named in memory of the former business and economics professor and dean of the Sorrell College of Business, recognizes individuals or groups who have implemented or encouraged economic improvement in the Alabama, Georgia and Florida region. Last year’s award went to the joint efforts of Phenix City and Columbus to restore the section of the Chattahoochee River between the cities to a new level of prominence in habitat improvement and recreational use.

WestRock CEO Steve Voorhees leads a 42,000-employee company with some $15 billion in annual sales. Prior to the formation of WestRock (NYSE: WRK), Voorhees led RockTenn, serving in various executive leadership roles including president and chief operating officer, executive vice president and chief financial officer; and chief administrative officer. Before joining RockTenn, he was in operations and executive roles at Sonat Inc., a diversified energy company headquartered in Birmingham.

WestRock, is the second-largest paper company in the United States. Its Mahrt-coated liner board mill just south of Phenix City, is recognized as one of the key pieces that made the consolidation of the former Mead, Westvaco and RockTenn companies possible. The mill, which uses water from the Chattahoochee River as a primary ingredient in making its products, contributes more than $250 million annually to the region’s economy, Turner said.