This summer marks the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina for those of us at Textron Marine & Land Systems. To many, August 29 is a day to celebrate our perseverance. If ever leadership was required, it was in Katrina’s aftermath. As part of a team charged with rebuilding both a business and the lives of many families, it proved to be my proudest and most humbling moment. Never before in my personal life or career had I been faced with so many obstacles to overcome and so many people counting on me.
Overnight, a large stretch of the Gulf Coast turned into a third-world country. There was little or no communications, no electricity, water, supplies or passable roads. We were among thousands left homeless.
Textron Marine & Land Systems was at a critical juncture, having won a contract to increase production of the Armored Security Vehicle (ASV). We needed to get the business back online while our employees were scattered.
All of Textron stepped up. Decisions were made quickly to start clean-up and continue payroll for our employees. Textron has always said its employees are its biggest asset, and during this crisis, they proved it. The decision to maintain payroll gave people hope in a situation that offered little. People were trying to come to terms with losing everything, and we believed if you had a job you had a chance to rebuild your life.
My priority focused on getting my family settled in a temporary home and my children back in school. Providing some sense of security was paramount to family and co-workers. Working together, we showed our employees a way forward. Our team was proactive in rebuilding the business while being mindful of our employees’ personal circumstances and did whatever was necessary to make things work. There were days I was as overwhelmed as anyone, but I couldn’t let anyone see that. I felt our management team had to be strong, focused and committed to show our employees we could all get through this. With our hard work, ASV production resumed within two months. Now, five years later, I look back, amazed at what we were able to accomplish while dealing with so much.
We moved back to our community and rebuilt home for Thanksgiving 2006. Without Textron’s support and the leadership it provided, I’m not sure any of us would have ever truly made it back home.