LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - Lawton's Goodyear plant manager is retiring later this year after 47 years with the company.
Brent Copeland has been the manufacturing director in Lawton since 2010, but this is his second stint working here. He moved to Lawton originally in 1978 as part of the team that started the factory.
He left in 1984 and worked for Goodyear plants across the country until he was ultimately able to find his way back to where he calls home.
Copeland said he was the shift manager in the tire room when the very first tire was made at the Lawton Goodyear back in February of 1979. Fast forward to Copeland's second stint here just a few years ago and the equipment that the first tire was built on was being replaced. So, Copeland headed right back to the tire room and actually made the very last tire that was ever made with that machine.
Copeland said Goodyear has grown significantly over the years, but there are still a few things that allow him to take a trip down memory lane.
"In the tire room where I started, it's the same office complex and I can remember being a 25-year-old walking out of that complex, going out to the floor and trying to get tire machines running, training people," Copeland said. "It was very exciting at that time. To be part of a new plant startup is a challenge but it's also very exciting."
Copeland said Goodyear's current production is more than triple what it was the first time he was here, but he said the added production is not the only change he's seen.
"The complexity of the product that we build has changed, based on what the consumers are demanding," Copeland said. "It's very similar, you'd think a tire is a tire but it's not. Of what we used to build vs. what we build today, it's a lot more complex."
Copeland said he has loved working at Goodyear, but there's one particular aspect of the job he'll miss the most.
"Oh, the people. It's a great organization, there's a great leadership team here that will continue to carry on. It's the people, it's the relationships that you build and it's the people in this organization. That's what I'll miss," Copeland said.
Copeland said he knows Goodyear will be in great hands going forward, but he has one piece of advice for everyone at the company.
"Kind of what I leave with young leaders is you've got to have character, you've got to have integrity and humility and you've got to have patience. And you'll do well," Copeland said.
Every employee at Goodyear gets a badge number, with the newest employees having the highest numbers. The newest hires have a badge number around 7,500. Copeland's badge number is 90.
While he is retiring, he won't be going anywhere anytime soon. He said he met his wife here in Lawton and they will be staying here. He said he's excited to spend some more time with his wife, as well as his kids and his grandkids, and do a little bit of traveling in his retirement.