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New Goodyear manager recognizes role in city

John Cunningham knows that what he does now could affect the lives of thousands of people, the community and the state of Oklahoma.

Cunningham, who succeeded Brent Copeland as manager of Goodyear's largest tire factory Oct. 1, feels an obligation to do everything he can to make sure the factory continues to modernize and upgrade so it will remain a viable business enterprise into the far future.

Southwest Oklahoma roots

Cunningham has spent most of his Goodyear career at the Lawton plant, and his roots in Southwest Oklahoma go even further. His father was in the Air Force, and that meant frequent moves, to places like Tokyo, Washington, D.C., and Honolulu. When his dad retired, the family moved to Walters, where John graduated from high school.

He worked for UPS in eastern Oklahoma for a while and came back to the area to become a tire builder at the new Goodyear plant. He advanced through a series of management positions in Lawton and then left for other assignments, including manufacturing director in Napanee, Canada, and Bogor, Indonesia. He returned to Lawton in 2014 as production manager.

So he was well-acquainted with the Lawton factory, and when Copeland stepped down Goodyear was able to make a "seamless transition" in management here.

"I think I spent my entire career preparing for this job," he said.

He already knew there was a lot more to running Goodyear's largest tire factory than making tires. How much more became apparent when he stepped into his new job.

"When I started out here all I wanted to do was build tires," he said. But as plant manager he feels a responsibility for the 2,600 who work at the plant and to the local community and even the state, whether it's working with the United Way or in business development.

"We need to be active," he said. "We need to support those causes and set the example for other businesses."

Keeping the factory up to date is always a primary goal for a plant manager. Modernization means the plant remains viable, providing jobs and the ability to keep supporting the community. 

The plant is several weeks from finishing its latest modernization project  the 13th expansion or modernization since the factory began operating in 1979. Those projects allow the factory to produce the more complex  and more profitable  tires that Goodyear sees as its future. As an example, the factory is adding to its product mix the new Assurance MaxLife (an all-season tire with an 85,000-mile tread life warranty) and the Eagle Enforcer All Weather police tire.

The Lawton Constitution

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