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Gibson USA: An American Icon Story of Recovery and Resurgence

Friday, September 10, 2010
It was on May 1st and 2nd, 2010 that two days of torrential rain caused floods that devastated Nashville, as well as surrounding communities in what was declared the most devastating floods to the area in 500 years. The water forced thousands from their homes, submerged some of the city's most prestigious landmarks and destroyed the gear of scores of musicians. Along with countless other businesses encompassed in the tragedy of Music City, Gibson Guitar’s Gibson USA plant, the world’s premiere musical instrument manufacturer and leader in music technology, found that it too had been severely impacted by the flood. Gibson USA, the production facility responsible for world renowned instruments such as the Gibson Les Paul Standard and the Gibson SG Standard guitars, was consumed by water. Only after the flood waters had receded was the extent of the damage truly realized. However, the road to recovery would prove to be a relatively quick one in light of the passion and spirit of those behind the Gibson brand.

The Gibson USA plant in the aftermath of the flooding that occurred on May 1st and 2nd, 2010, in Nashville, Tennessee and surrounding communities.

In the days following the Nashville Flood a harsh reality was quickly realized that the road to recovery and resurgence depended on the passion and dedication of the Gibson USA spirited team.

Scores of musicians lost their instruments in the wake of the Nashville flood. The Gibson Guitar Repair and Restoration shop has spent a lot of time attempting to salvage beloved guitars as seen here restoring Keith Urban’s bassist and guitar player’s guitars.

Some musicians came by other Gibson facilities to personally to inspect the damage. Seen here are Rickey Medlocke (Blackfoot / Lynyrd Skynyrd) and Gary Rossington (Lynyrd Skynyrd) checking out flood damaged guitars which were later destroyed to make way for new ones to be produced.

A heartbreaking reality for many guitarists was to find that many of the beautiful creations from Gibson USA were too damaged to be recovered. However since the flood Gibson USA has stepped in with ramped up production and superior artist relations efforts to insure every Gibson player has what they need to perform in the future.

In order to quickly salvage some of the operations conducted at Gibson USA and to get people back to work, various facets of assembly were relocated. The photo above shows of the pickup assembly line that has been moved to the old Gibson Custom shop building. Gibson USA was proud to keep production underway during the rebuild of the plant.

Only several days after the flood, Gibson USA's Rough Mill, which sits at a higher elevation, was able to get up and running once more.

By mid-May many machines in Gibson USA were being inspected, temporary duct work was being run, floors were being cleaned and whole areas are being cleared of contaminated materials. New equipment, production facilities and overall production schedules are quick to put Gibson USA in business with stronger opportunities than ever before and a guarantee that all new product being produced from Gibson USA is the finest in every way.

After flood waters had cleared and the floors had been dried, some unique patterns on the floors in the finishing department of Gibson USA were left behind from remnants of paints and stains. An interesting and creative reminder that the spirit of Gibson USA can never be defeated.

In June the task of vacuuming out contaminated dust was in full swing. Along with more cleaning, wall studs throughout the plant were also being replaced.

By the beginning of July the main floor of Gibson USA had been cleaned and sanitized, while duct work was being replaced and machinery was being placed, painted and tested.

Production underway at Gibson USA

Though the Nashville flood was a tragedy of staggering proportion, it has been the perseverance, dedication, and spirit of the Nashville people that has allowed the city to step back onto solid ground. These qualities are reflected in the numerous workers and supporters of the Gibson brand who devoted their time and passion to the recovery efforts, launching a new era with unprecedented determination creativity, innovation and leadership for Gibson USA. The company also insured that no guitars that could have possibly been affected by the flood waters and unstable environment during that time which included high humidity and potential contaminants, would go to market and they were, thus, destroyed. All guitars being produced from the Gibson USA plant are new and unrelated to any instrument affected by the flood disaster.

The continued stories of loyalty, dedication and friendship have emerged throughout this poignant part of Gibson USA history - from the security guard who refused to leave his post until the last possible second to the supplier who drove all night from Chicago to bring critical items to the plant. There’s the human resources manager who drove to the plant through torrential rains to help move items to dry areas and the channel partners around the world who offered their support and assistance. And then there are the Gibson team members who took to the social media platforms to stay in touch and gather information for the successful recovery.

“It’s amazing how connected the employees are with this plant and this company,” said Gibson Guitar Chairman and CEO Henry Juszkiewicz. “When workers saw the damage, first came the tears. They wanted to know what happened to ‘their’ plant. They had been hit personally. But no one was hanging his head. Instantly, the focus turned to how Gibson could come back even better than before. Out of the disaster came an opportunity to be bigger, better and stronger. Gibson USA is producing the world’s greatest instruments and will continue to bring our many fans only the finest products.”

In addition to the reopening of Gibson USA, many musicians outside of the Gibson corporate offices found support and aid through the Gibson Foundation. The Music Rising program, initially founded in 2005 by U2’s the Edge, legendary producer Bob Ezrin and Gibson Guitar Chairman and CEO Henry Juszkiewicz expanded its efforts to help the Nashville music community recovery by donating $250,000 for musician’s instrument replacement. Partnering with MusiCares, Music Rising and the Gibson Foundation have already assisted more than 100 musicians in the Nashville area.  In addition, to help the Nashville Symphony children’s music education program, which lost all of its instruments, Music Rising provided $25,000 for the critically acclaimed Instrument Petting Zoo program For more information go to www.gibsonfoundation.org.

From the disaster rises a bigger and stronger Gibson USA, producing the most innovative and exceptional instruments in the world. Musicians, fans and consumers can all bet on new models and traditional iconic guitars from the Gibson USA plant, based in Nashville, Tennessee….Music City extraordinaire.

Originally published on gibson.com
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