People in small communities where a large factory is the main employer become attached to those businesses. It's common for generations of a family to have worked there, often spending decades on staff.
That's definitely true of the community of Gadsden, Ala., and its relationship with the Goodyear tire plant that has been a fixture in the town of 35,000 for more than 90 years. So it's no surprise that they will take the news hard that Goodyear has plans to shutter the historic facility for good. The Gadsden factory has escaped a number of times in the past, but this time it appears to be permanent, especially given the severe cutbacks earlier this year followed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, it caught us a bit by surprise when the posting of the story to the Rubber & Plastics News Facebook page drew so much attention. Nearly 2,000 people shared the Facebook post, which led to more than 32,000 views of the story at rubbernews.com.
And the comments showed how much the operation meant to the residents. Some talked about families and friends who worked there. Others criticized Goodyear for the downsizing, and a few acknowledged the plant was headed in this direction for awhile.
"This one really hit home for me," one woman shared. "Some of the most important men in my life worked here for years and retired here." Another said she remembered it from years ago when she worked there, adding, "almost everyone worked there during their lives."
It brought back childhood memories for another. "I remember when I was a child and we lived in Alabama, we would pass it on the way to visit my grandparents," he posted. "I was always amazed how big it was."
I've shared before about the time I spent in Gadsden in 1999, when the end seemed certain. But Mickey Williams, United Steelworkers Local 12 president at the time, was able to help broker a deal that led to two more decades of life for the plant.
Unfortunately it looks like his son, Mickey Williams Jr., current Local 12 president, will have to lead workers as they produce the final tires in Gadsden.