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BizLex Q&A: Nick Rowe – Smiley Pete Publishing

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In Central Kentucky, once you flip a faucet deal with and clear water gushes out, there’s a number of work and infrastructure behind that miracle. Nick Rowe has devoted his work life to water utilities, spending 35 years with American Water in quite a few states and rising by way of administration to turn out to be president of Kentucky American Water and a senior vp of American Water.

Rowe, who’s retiring, is a household man, in addition to a company chief. He holds a bachelor’s diploma in engineering from Western Kentucky College and a grasp’s diploma in enterprise administration from Lebanon Valley Faculty in Pennsylvania. He has been concerned with quite a few regulatory businesses, civic organizations, {and professional} associations and has held board positions with a number of foundations, enterprise and group organizations. He served as the primary African- American chair of Commerce Lexington and the second African-American chair of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

Rowe displays on his expertise and shares insights about water, work and life.

What are some important modifications you’ve seen within the trade?

A giant change has been the development of expertise — notably laptop methods referred to as SCADA methods, which open and shut valves and permits for instantaneous monitoring. Staff now not have to enter the pipe gallery beneath the therapy plant, down on their knees to open and shut valves. Earlier than, each valve within the plant needed to be opened and closed manually. Right now operators have the technical experience to know the expertise and the power in an emergency, like an influence outage, to nonetheless do it the previous approach.

It was an enormous transition for our staff within the area and on the plant services, and we instituted a number of coaching for our staff.

What’s the measurement and scope of Kentucky American Water’s buyer base and infrastructure?

We serve over 130,000 clients in Central Kentucky and different counties. Some infrastructure within the floor is 100 years previous. We’ve hundreds of miles of pipes, hundreds of fireside hydrants and different services, like tanks, that make up the infrastructure.

Infrastructure upkeep is a problem throughout the nation and, as a complete, water and wastewater infrastructure within the U.S. is in very unhealthy situation. The excellent news for Kentucky American Water and American Water clients is that we’ve got an ongoing program to exchange that getting older infrastructure. We’re lowering the age of the infrastructure over time by investing thousands and thousands of {dollars} every year. Water is the one utility product that we ingest in our our bodies, so we’ve acquired to get it proper.

What’s a significant venture undertaken throughout your management?

Lexington is among the largest cities within the U.S. that isn’t on a significant waterway. Our water provide primarily comes from the Kentucky River. We, American Water, undertook a venture to resolve Central Kentucky’s water deficit. We put a $160 million new plant in place in 2010 at Pool 3 on the Kentucky River. It added 20 million gallons of capability for Central Kentucky, which solved a decades-old downside of not having sufficient water. That allowed us to drag from a distinct a part of the river and pump that water from close to Owenton again towards Lexington. It allows us to deal with the expansion in Central Kentucky and people counties we serve.

What are your ideas about personal versus public possession of water utilities?

Years in the past, within the Eighteen Eighties, some businessmen in Lexington began the Lexington Hydraulic & Manufacturing Firm as a result of town didn’t have a water utility. This water utility turned Kentucky American Water. So, we’ve all the time been privately held. Since then there was debate round personal enterprise, and there are additionally some good municipal methods across the nation.

It’s a useful resource concern for us. We really feel that we’ve got the experience, the folks, the workforce, and the capital to finance initiatives and change the infrastructure that perhaps a few of these municipalities don’t have. We use our measurement and scale to purchase supplies at diminished value and go these financial savings on to our clients.

Below your management, what have been some finest practices put in place?

Our values are security, teamwork, belief, environmental compliance and management. Being a high-performance group, the No. 1 worth is the protection of our staff. American Water nationally serves thousands and thousands of buyer, and we’re solely allowed, nationwide, six notices of violations in a single yr. That’s 20 occasions higher than the trade common. These are the sorts of requirements we set on security and environmental compliance.

The opposite factor that we’ve completed is to attempt to transfer the variety and inclusion needle. We begin each assembly in American Water with a security second by one in all our staff, adopted by an inclusion and variety second. We’ve actually targeted on inclusion and variety, as a result of in our minds, our workforce must mirror and appear to be the communities we serve. It’s very awkward for folks to speak about range in the beginning of a gathering once they’re not used to doing that. It was laborious sufficient to get them to speak about security. Now we’ve got staff from all completely different backgrounds, speaking about their various experiences and sharing completely different range challenges they’ve had over time, and we study from one another by way of that course of.

What are some challenges?

Proper now, it’s supply-chain challenges and attempting to get supplies in order that we are able to sustain with infrastructure alternative. We’re attempting to remain forward by shopping for supplies in bulk and storing them in case we run right into a delay. As a result of our provide chain group is so massive nationally, we’re shopping for miles of pipe and fittings and huge portions of chemical substances in bulk.

Hiring continues to be a problem for all companies. I used to be with American Water 35 years, however you don’t see a number of that anymore. Folks change jobs and positions. As a enterprise, it’s a must to be artistic and ensure you’re making a successful tradition so that folks need to keep. It’s important to be versatile. We place a big focus in our group on tradition and having management in place who deal with folks properly.

What’s your recommendation to younger leaders?

I’ve all the time believed in servant management. Wherever I labored in American Water, the job has been to serve the general public, however simply as importantly to serve the workers. Folks primarily keep in mind the way you make them really feel. So, my encouragement to younger leaders is to recollect to deal with folks the way you need to be handled. Have I made the workers I work with higher? Have I made our group higher? Ultimately, that’s all that issues. How did you steadiness your skilled and private life? That’s the No. 1 query I get requested by leaders within the enterprise, and I inform them it’s a must to personal your work-life steadiness. You’ll be able to’t depend on anybody else. If I used to be touring out of city and a parent-teacher convention was on Thursday night time, I attempted to get again Thursday morning in order that I may go. My daughters performed basketball and soccer at Dunbar. I used to be at these ball video games. I made it a precedence, and right now my daughters keep in mind me being there. It’s troublesome as you progress up in a company and duties turn out to be quite a few, however it’s paid dividends for my household.

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