LAWTON, OK (TNN) - The Goodyear Lawton plant, which has been here for 40 years now, has employees from all walks of life working there. Some of the employees are locals while others planted their roots here after getting out of the military.
Employees say the thing that makes this job, this plant, so special is that they feel like a big family. Vickie Thomas, a machine cleaner and trainer, said there are a number of people who started working there together around the time the plant first opened.
"So, it's a family,” she said. “We all know each other and love and fight but we've been here for years together so it's special."
Many people we interviewed, including Doug Bishop, a maintenance technician, said it's the work ethic and people that make this plant what it is today.
"We are a close-knit family here that's what the success of this plant is all about is the people,” Bishop said. “The life expectancy of a normal plant is maybe 40 years and this plant is going past that, and it will continue to go because of the employment that we can pull from the Lawton and surrounding areas and the attitudes that people have to want to make it work."
He believes it's the family atmosphere that makes it run like it does, and with good reason.
"I have three boys, all grown that have all been employed by Goodyear,” Bishop said. “I grew up with my dad working here. He was a 20-year veteran after getting out of the military. My sister works here, my brother-in-law works here, and I have many more extended family members that work here also."
He said the pay, stability, and the family tradition is what made him want to make a career at Goodyear Lawton. Like Bishop’s dad, Gary Rhodan is also a former service member who decided to start a career after getting out of the military. Goodyear Lawton has more than 300 former service members working at the plant. Rhodan said the military prepared him.
"Just the hardworking attitude knowing that you have to get our job completed safely,” Rhodan said. “Also, looking out for your co-workers as well and make sure everyone is successful as well."
Another thing he said is similar is the way the two cares about family. They also try to give back to the community. Just this past year, Goodyear employees at the Lawton plant donated around $500,000 to United Way. Thomas said it’s a yearlong process through auctions and breakfast.
"There's a lot of caring people here,” Thomas said. “We are so blessed that it's just good to give back to the people that are less fortunate. There's a lot of caring people here."
Thomas said they’ve raised and donated about $18-million just to United Way since they opened.