One + January 2011 - (Page 28)

THE Fans, Dry Ice and a $600 Extension Cord How Music City united during crisis and averted disaster. BY JESSIE STATES members joined in an unprecedented coalition to save their city. Here are their stories. BUTCH SPYRIDON “Nashville didn’t wait to respond. Nashville picked itself up. We’ve got work to do. We’re not waiting on the president, on the feds. We’re not waiting on FEMA or the state. We’re going to take care of ourselves,” Spyridon says. “And that message permeated every level of the community.” Spyridon and Mayor Karl Dean were discussing whether or not to cancel that evening’s Jimmy Buffett concert. Inclement weather was expected, but people were already in town, at the bars and restaurants, in the hotels. A message to fans preceded the show: Be careful going home. Officials knew the storm might turn nasty. They had no idea of the damage it would incur. The following day, Spyridon recalls watching coverage of a schoolhouse sliding down a hill and a big rig floating in the stream once known as a highway. He immediately ordered everyone who could leave their homes to work, to reach out to the hotels and attractions and find out the extent of damage—damage that would escalate in the coming days as intermittent torrential rains took a toll on the city. “I had a lot of guilt for 24 hours,” he recalls. “I am about to talk about tourism, and it doesn’t really feel important in the context of what is happening to our fellow citizens. I got over that when I saw Opryland and realized the city was going to need sales tax to help rebuild and jobs for our citizens.” CVB staff began working with local hotels to accommodate conferences and events scheduled within the next two weeks. A Humane Society conference opted to stay. Part of the event included an animal rescue. CS Week contacted Vince Gill and held a fundraising concert for the city. A conference of radio station owners offered pro bono spots on 1,000 different stations. The message: The best donation is a vacation. Next, officials needed to bolster summer attendance. The city’s biggest conference—the CMA Music Fest—nets about 30,000 attendees, who were canceling their reservations by the thousands. The Nashville CVB office lost power on the second day of last spring’s debilitating floods, which meant no phones, no lights and most importantly no servers, without which there could be no meaningful communication to the outside world. CVB President Butch Spyridon called building management and said he was on his way with a generator. You can’t bring a generator, they said. Spyridon was in no mood to comply; he had one of the city’s biggest industries to save. There was one other option: The parking garage ran on a different power grid. Spyridon phoned his wife’s ex-husband, a wireman by trade. How much to jerry-rig a 150-foot extension cord to the specs of the garage power outlet? Two hours and US$600 later, the CVB had power. “It was an expensive extension cord, but cheap for what it was about to do,” Spyridon recalls. Online servers were the only way to get accurate information to the CVB’s stakeholders: its visitors, meeting planners, hoteliers, even the media—which were doing the city no favors with 24-hour and oft misinformed coverage. Several hours later, the phone rang. The servers were in danger. With no air conditioning, the room was becoming dangerously hot. Spyridon issued the order: leave them on, go to the grocery, buy dry ice and fans. The plan worked. In retrospect, Spyridon admits it’s a good thing he doesn’t know much about electricity; no one who did would have suggested such an outlandish plan. But this story is not unusual. Some heroes, some just soldiers, hundreds of people helped the Nashville tourism industry weather April’s 1,000-year storm. Elected officials, industry leaders, runof-the-mill staffers, local and national musicians and community 28 one+ 01.11

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of One + January 2011

One + January 2011
Energy of Many
The Future is Sharing
Strategic View
Fans, Dry Ice and a $600 Extension Cord
Top Spots
Job Resolution
The Laws of Attraction
How Bazaar
What’s Cooking in 2011
Another World at Our Feet
Middle East Central
More Than Amusement
The Future Looks Brilliant
How to Develop a Virtual Event
Tales of Adventure for the Newly Independent Planner
Idea Man
Your Community
Making a Diffrence
Until We Meet Again

One + January 2011