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Column: Fortune 500 company WestRock makes Atlanta its ‘home office’

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on March 2, 2018

Metro Atlanta has a new Fortune 500 company — WestRock.

WestRock was formed in July 2015 out of a merger between RockTenn, then based in Norcross, and MeadWestvaco, then based in Richmond, Va.

WestRock

WestRock executives at the NYSE on July 13, 2015 (Special: WestRock’s Facebook page)

“We needed an address for our company when we merged, and we elected to have Richmond as our address,” said Steven Voorhees, CEO of WestRock, who added that Richmond was chosen to make a statement. “It was a merger of two companies and not the acquisition of one by the other.”

 

Voorhees, who had been the CEO of RockTenn, remained in Atlanta after the merger.

WestRock announced a year ago that it was moving its Atlanta offices from Norcross to NorthPark in Sandy Springs. Now it has formally changed its legal address to 1000 Abernathy Road in Atlanta.

“We thought it made sense to go ahead and change our address,” said Voorhees, who said the company prefers calling its new location its “home office” rather than its headquarters. “We are here to support the business.”

The company is now the nation’s second-largest packaging company, after International Paper.

It has annual sales of $16.3 billion; 45,000 employees; and 300 facilities in America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. It currently is ranked as #190 among Fortune 500 companies.

Steven Voorhees, CEO of WestRock

Steven Voorhees, CEO of WestRock

“We continue to have a significant presence in Richmond, and we are operating out of both locations,” Voorhees said. “We did change our address. So when the Fortune 500 listing comes out, Atlanta will have another Fortune 500 company. ”That will continue to give metro Atlanta bragging rights as being a hub for Fortune 500 companies.

Voorhees said he hopes the move will give WestRock a greater presence and visibility in Atlanta – calling the change “more of an evolution rather than a revolution.”

Already Voorhees serves on the boards of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Junior Achievement of Georgia, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta and SunTrust Banks. The company also has a strong United Waycampaign. “From a communications standpoint, it will be more straight forward to have Atlanta as our base,” Voorhees said. “I think it’s going to be easier for us to engage.”

Sheri and Steve Labovitz

The husband and wife team of Sheri and Steve Labovitz is living up to being a power couple. Sheri Labovitz recently was named president (the top volunteer leader) of Second Helpings, a food rescue organization – a nonprofit that she has worked with since 2013. And Steve Labovitz, a partner with Dentons, has just been named as chair of the Council for Quality Growth.

Sheri Labovitz

Sheri Labovitz

“I’m proud of Sheri and how she is pursuing this with great vigor and passion,” Steve said of his wife.

Sheri Labovitz said Second Helpings has grown dramatically since it hired an executive director, Joe Labriola.

“The amount of food we rescued in 2017 was over 1.53 million pounds,” Sheri said, adding that that. equates to more than 1.27 million meals. “Hunger is not a game. Managing our food rescue network to handle more than 8,000 food rescues annually requires substantial investments in staff, technology and supplies.”

Recently Second Helpings, which specializes in rescuing fresh perishable food, started picking up from the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Philips Arena in 2017. Sheri Labovitz said the nonprofit is working closely with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, andthey are forming a closer partnership.

Steve Labovitz

Steve Labovitz

Steve Labovitz, who has specialized in legal economic development and public-private financing models for the past 17 years, said that becoming involved with the Council for Quality Growth was an easy move for him. “It has been a terrific organization where we look at economic development in the region,” he said, adding that it is focused transportation, affordable housing and working with every jurisdiction in the region. “It’s the largest organization that supports quality growth in our region.”

The Council has also appointed Ann Hanlon as vice chair, Paul Corley as secretary, and Doug Jenkins as treasurer.

Small Business Administration

Ashley D. Bell, an early supporter of President Donald Trump, was inducted as regional administrator for Region IV for the U.S. Small Business Administration on Feb. 26.

Ashley Bell

Ashley Bell (left) receives warm wishes from his predecessor – Cassius Butts (Photo by Maria Saporta)

One of the speakers at his induction was Cassius Butts, his predecessor who was appointed during the Obama administration.

“Ashley Bell is someone you can depend on,” Butts said, adding that supporting small businesses cuts across party lines. “We have got to support our small business community. Ashley Bell is going to succeed.”

One of the funniest moments during the induction was when Albert Turner Jr., a commissioner in Perry County, Ala., took the podium.

Turner explained that he was an ardent member of the Democratic Party.

“I never thought I would say these words – Donald Trump has made a wise decision,” Turner said as standing-room only crowd broke out in laughter.

Former DeKalb County CEO Lee May, who was the master of ceremony, then took the podium. “Ashley was a little worried,” May said of Turner’s remarks. “It could have been his first and last day” as regional SBA administrator.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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