Mixing business and humanity

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WITH A relentless focus on the bottom line by company managements and the financial community, it’s easy to lose sight of the human side of the chemical business.

Our industry has a tremendous capacity to benefit human life. And importantly, we should showcase that at every opportunity.

The RPM International annual meeting at the New York Stock Exchange last week following the announcement of its fiscal fourth-quarter and 2009 results mixed both business and a major humanitarian effort.

The Medina, Ohio, US-based coatings and sealants company, invited local officials from Greensburg, Kansas, US, to speak about its rebuilding efforts following a devastating tornado that ripped through the town on the night of May 4, 2007.

A record 1.7 miles wide (versus an average width of 75 yards), the Category 5 tornado destroyed 95% of the town, including all churches, schools and downtown businesses. Eleven of its 1,400 residents were killed and most left homeless as 961 homes were destroyed.

RPM has been instrumental in the massive reconstruction effort, providing building expertise and materials, noted Daniel Wallach, executive director of Greensburg GreenTown, a nonprofit organization dedicated to help rebuild the town sustainably.

Greensburg will emerge as a different place altogether, as a “model green community,” he said.

“We needed to do something different to attract businesses and families,” added Darin Headrick, Superintendent of Schools. “Sustainability is providing new hope.”

The goal is to have all city structures built to top level LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification standards.

The construction of the first LEED Platinum critical access hospital is now under way in Greensburg, noted Mary Sweet, administrator at the Kiowa County Memorial Hospital (below).

“We just didn’t know how to rebuild sustainably. That’s where RPM stepped in, with a focus on the building envelope design and construction to maximize energy efficiency and sustainability,” she said.

The K-12 (kindergarten to 12th grade) school is also being rebuilt to LEED for Schools Platinum status.

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“People say building sustainably takes time – until disaster strikes,” said RPM chairman and CEO Frank Sullivan. “We were uniquely positioned to respond and now we are helping Greensburg build an eco-town.”

The reconstruction of Greensburg is being documented on a television show on Planet Green TV (affiliated with The Discovery Channel) called “Greensburg: A story of community rebuilding.” The executive producer? – actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who highlighted the town’s plight in 2007.

 

Photo credits: Jaime Oppenheimer/The Wichita Eagle (first), Greensburg GreenTown (second)

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