Resilient Spirit of Koch Employees Helps Hurricane-Stricken Neighbors


Northampton, MA –News Direct– Koch Industries

At the Koch Methanol plant on the banks of the Mississippi River, Marc Hoss kept a close eye on Hurricane Ida as it hit the Caribbean last August. The Midwest facing its first hurricane saw Ida unexpectedly upgrade to a Category 4 hurricane and change course toward the small Louisiana town between Baton Rouge and New Orleans where the plant is located. The team immediately began putting their response plan into action.

Quickly and safely, the team at the St. James Parish Koch Methanol facility shut down operations to keep the area and surrounding community safe and prepared their own homes for Ida’s arrival. The Koch Emergency Operations Center in Wichita activated, making hotel reservations for families of employees who needed to be evacuated ahead of the storm.

“That’s one of the things I’m really proud of,” says Marc, a 31-year Koch veteran who is vice president of manufacturing at Koch Methanol St. James. “We wanted to get people out of the site, shut down their homes, take care of the team and get their families to a safe place. Our Wichita team scoured the southern United States for hotels.

Marc and a small emergency team of facility staff have hunkered down in the on-site administrative offices — the “rescue team” he calls. In the calm that preceded Ida, they felt assured that all was well.

Their sense of ease quickly wore out as Ida’s path moved directly over St. James Parish, growing in strength and pounding on the ground. The hurricane battered much of Louisiana with torrential rains and winds of over 100 miles per hour that toppled giant trees, ripped roofs and collapsed power lines. Safe in the Koch Methanol facility, Marc and his team’s thoughts immediately turned to the community.

“We were expecting a category 1 or 2 and instead it was a category 4,” recalls Marc. “I was really concerned about what was going to happen to people’s homes and whether they would be safe.”

The next morning, as Ida faded, Marc was relieved that the exit team was safe and that the state-of-the-art methanol facility had suffered only minor damage. But the community of St. James and surrounding parishes were not so lucky. The hurricane caused devastating damage – homes were demolished, flooded and without power. Marc and his team realized their neighbors needed help — and fast.

“The damage was really devastating,” he said.

Immediately after the storm, with her own house damaged and the telephone network down, Baylee Mativi, Koch Methanol’s human resources business partner, set up a makeshift office. There, she and other members of the HR team worked to ensure that all employees at the St. James facility were safe and had what they needed.

The company provided its employees with everything from food and supplies – which were otherwise non-existent, according to an employee whose home was affected by the storm – to electric generators. For one employee, the generator – delivered “from your Koch family” – powered a fridge and freezer that stored food for several families that had been without power for three weeks.

The next challenge was to identify urgently needed supplies in the community while waiting for help to arrive from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Red Cross.

“We were adapting on the fly. Since I hadn’t been through a hurricane, I said to the Wichita management team, “Let’s go ask people who’ve been through this stuff,” and they started giving us some great ideas.” , said Mark.

With electricity cut across the community, Koch Methanol crews coordinated with local authorities to compile a list of urgent needs: tarps to cover damaged roofs, ice and water.

They sent the list to Koch Wichita’s supply and logistics team, which urgently tapped into the company’s nationwide network to expedite emergency deliveries. Vehicles drove through the night delivering nearly 700 tarps and a refrigerated 18-wheeler carrying huge pallets of ice arrived.

Over the next two days, Marc and his team, alongside local community volunteers, set up shop at a local park to distribute the supplies. After completing their shifts at the plant, many Koch Methanol employees came to help other members of the community instead of returning home to repair their own properties. Together they unloaded the hundreds of tarps from the back of trailers and dumped bags of ice into trunks as grateful people lined up. Many — including a FEMA agent who pulled over — were shocked at how quickly Koch stocked up to help Louisiana.

What impressed Marc was the enthusiasm of the factory team to roll up their sleeves and lend a hand, despite many of their own homes being hit hard by the hurricane.

“Employees from all our departments came together. These guys all had damage to their homes, but they’re here after working all day trying to help the community,” Marc said.

Even with that support, Marc and his team saw many people still struggling in St. James when the hurricane disappeared from national news. Electricity was still out, flooded houses needed cleaning, people needed food and water. Koch Methanol employees stepped up again, buying and unloading huge trailers filled with supplies, including thousands of rolls of paper towels sent by the Koch Georgia-Pacific company, and filling hundreds of bags with free food and cleaning supplies – even cooking huge pots of jambalaya for anyone in need of a hot meal. A sheriff helped direct traffic around the long line of cars that stretched across the road as nearly 500 people got desperately needed help.

For many at Koch Methanol, helping out was a welcome opportunity to show support for their community throughout the crisis.

“People were coming out and they were full of energy, even in the face of all these difficulties that we were facing,” Marc said. “I’ve heard over and over again people say, ‘Thank you so much, I’m thrilled to be working for this company, and ‘you’re leading the effort.'”

Baylee says it’s Louisiana’s strong community spirit that helps people weather the floods and storms that have hit the state.

“My favorite thing about Louisiana is that in any disaster everyone comes together, it’s just a natural response for anyone here,” she said.

Patty Prats, community affairs coordinator for Koch Methanol, said the flood of thank you letters the company has received is heartening in that community members appreciate Koch’s help.

“What’s important to us is responding to the needs of the communities we call home and our quick actions to make a real difference,” Patty said.

The aftermath of the storm became a once-in-a-lifetime bonding experience for the St. James team. Being part of a company that has worked so hard — from Louisiana to Kansas to Texas and beyond — to help people has made them very proud, Marc says.

With the hurricane behind them, Marc incorporated Ida’s lessons into a storm-proof business continuity strategy. This will ensure that his team is ready to make a difference again, should another crisis arise.

“We were overcoming a new challenge every 15 minutes, it seemed,” Marc said. “But the way the teams came together and demonstrated their commitment to each other and to the community, made us all very proud to be a part of it.”

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