Tenn-Tom Conference Set For August 25–27

The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Council is set to hold its annual conference at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Ala., August 25–27, with measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“We’re going to hold our annual conference, and registrations are coming in very well,” said Mitch Mays, administrator of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority, the four-state group that directs business development on the waterway. “I can assure everyone we’re going to have a safe and enjoyable conference.”

Mays said he’s working closely with the hotel to comply with restrictions in place due to the virus. Face masks and hand sanitizer will be provided for every attendee, and the hotel is positioning hand sanitizer throughout the facility. Mays added that attendees will have plenty of room to maintain social distancing during sessions.

The conference will begin with a golf scramble at nearby Lakewood Golf Club’s Azalea course the morning of August 25. That afternoon, Inland Rivers Ports & Terminals will hold its Southeast Rivers Basin meeting at the hotel. Tenn-Tom conference registration will begin at 4 p.m. that afternoon, with an opening reception following at 6 p.m. outside on the hotel’s North Ballroom Patio.

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Day two of the conference will feature a morning presentation by Rob Spalding, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general, who will speak on threats and opportunities for trade with China. The morning session will also feature John Driscoll, director and CEO of the Alabama State Port Authority, which oversees development at the Port of Mobile. That afternoon, the waterway council and its user’s board will hold their annual business meetings. Ritu Linhart, general manager with Pinnacle Renewable Energy, will discuss Pinnacle’s new pellet mill project near Demopolis, Ala., on the lower end of the waterway.

Day two of the Tenn-Tom conference will conclude with a reception and silent auction, with proceeds going to the Agnes Zaiontz Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Transportation Museum, named for the development authority’s beloved, longtime office manager and representative.
The final day of the conference will offer presentations for waterway managers from the Mobile Engineer District and Nashville Engineer District, including a report from Justin Murphree, operations manager for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. Conference attendees will also hear from members of the U.S. Coast Guard. The conference will adjourn at noon.

The upcoming Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway conference will be the 38th annual meeting of waterway stakeholders. Just three waterway leaders—former administrator Don Walden; port and economic development specialist Ron Coles; and George Crawford, district planner for the Golden Triangle Planning Development District—have been to every prior meeting and plan to be there this year, Mays said.

“We like to call Don, Ron and George legacy members of the waterway development council,” Mays said. “Those three have been to every Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway conference since the beginning, and they’re planning on attending this one as well.”

Registration information is available at the waterway’s website, The hotel block closes August 3, with hotel registration occurring through Marriott’s website. The group code is “tenntom.”