Market moments: Here’s what resiliency looks like

During market, I had an opportunity to visit with Craig and Dylan Smith of Kith Furniture in their High Point showroom at 449 S. Wrenn St.

The showroom was filled with scores of attractive introductions, which was remarkable considering that just a few short weeks ago their 500,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution facility in Haleyville, Alabama, was damaged by a tornado.

Craig Smith, president and CEO, recalled that from March 31 to April 1 there were “tornadoes all over our area.”  

To his point, the National Weather Service in Huntsville had confirmed an EF-2 tornado in the Hartselle area, an EF-2 in Lauderdale County and an EF-1 in northeastern Morgan County.

Dylan Smith, executive vice president and chief operating officer, added that because the plant had been operating two shifts, four days a week, thankfully the only employee who was at the plant on Saturday, April 1, the day the tornado hit, was the security guard, who was not injured.

Dylan Smith, left, and Craig Smith in their High Point showroom

Dylan Smith, who was first on the scene at 3 a.m., was greeted by the sight of an overturned 18-wheeler. However, before even entering the plant, he quickly realized the tornado had also damaged the roof.

Before sunrise, Dylan had pulled together the management team, and the group accessed the damage.  

The damage was such that Dylan had to move two of Kith’s assembly lines some 3 to 4 miles away to their original site.

Here is where the story gets remarkable. 

In only two days, the company managed to relocate those assembly lines. “We had to bring in generators, rewire everything, build bathrooms for the employees — it was a huge undertaking,” Craig told me, adding, “And if that wasn’t hard enough, it rained six out of the next seven days.”

All told, the tornado damaged some 75,000 square feet of the facility, a challenge that potentially could have put the lid on Kith’s production.

What happened next gives new meaning to coach Vince Lombardi’s observation: “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

Dylan Smith, who along with Craig Smith, quarterbacked the after-disaster-planning, told me, “We have 300 employees, and we were going to do whatever it took to keep them employed.”

Craig Smith added, “Our employees were focused on getting the damage resolved. The outpouring of help from the community, our elected officials, our customers and reps who don’t even work with us was unbelievable.”

Other businesses in the community offered to loan Kith trucks and forklifts; customers who normally do not pick up purchases offered to do so; Kith’s employees took on 14-hour shifts; and the end result of this mammoth effort was that the company literally built a new plant in a week’s time.

Even better, when production resumed, the plant was producing goods at 80% on that first day, bumped that up another 10% the day after, and by that third day was producing at the same level as before the tornado hit.

And the icing on the cake, according to Craig and Dylan Smith, was that “all our employees got to spend Easter Sunday with their families.”

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