Corporate Meetings & Incentives Magazine
Cover Story
Mar 1, 2007 12:00 PM,
By Bob Andelman

The symphony of hundreds of hammers hammering, a half-dozen circular saws buzzing, and 800 Habitat for Humanity corporate volunteers grunting was a sweet sound in the new New Orleans neighborhood of Musicians’ Village, which is set amid some of the worst destruction of Hurricane Katrina. It’s here that thousands of homes have been left decrepit and abandoned, with rust-colored marks (called “brown lines” by the locals) on their exteriors showing just how high the flood water rose, in some cases 10 to 15 feet. It’s also here that hope is returning as families move into these pretty rows of brilliantly colored new homes, with friendly dogs napping on their front porches and smoke rising from their chimneys. It’s slowly becoming home again.

And it’s here that appliance giant Whirlpool decided to hold a community event as part of its weeklong sales meeting in January at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, designed around the theme “Building for Tomorrow.” Whirlpool’s choice to construct new homes is symbolic: It is also building a new company by merging two 100-year-old corporate cultures — Whirlpool (whose top brands include Whirlpool, KitchenAid, and Kenmore for Sears) and Maytag (Maytag, Amana, Jenn-Air) — just nine months after acquiring its rival.

“In some respects, the build is symbolic of building our future,” says Sam Abdelnour, Whirlpool’s vice president of sales, North American region. Since 1999, Whirlpool has donated a refrigerator and a range to every Habitat home built in North America, and its employees often participate in Habitat builds. In 2006, for example, Whirlpool brought 300 employees and consumers to Nashville, Tenn., to build 10 homes in one week.

Bob Andelman at Musicians’ Village, New Orleans/Photo by Jensen Walker