Droves of GECOM employees past and present gathered on the grounds of the facility to celebrate 25 years of manufacturing memories Saturday.
Throughout the day, those associated with the company took part in games, prize drawings and free food intermixed with equal portions of laughter and happy tears.
The silver anniversary ceremony brought back familiar faces and turned back the clock to the earliest days of the manufacturing facility, one that found its genesis in the idealism of few and the hard work of many.
Former GECOM president Hiro Ohashi appeared via video and talked of the days when the acreage near the intersection of Barachel Lane and Montgomery Road was merely a cornfield.
Wearing a GECOM shirt he’d kept since the plant’s inception, Ohashi-san told a group of hundreds that he’s never regretted his decision to choose Greensburg as the site of his automobile latch plant.
“Greensburg has welcomed the Japanese very warmly,” said the former president. “The people of Greensburg are diligent hard workers,” he added before expressing his belief the company will continue to prosper in the future.
Ohashi’s hopes for the future were echoed by the speakers who followed, many of whom referred to their time at GECOM as one of the best of their lives.
Former plant manager Dave Carey, the first in his position, emotionally reflected on his tenure at the company and attributed his enjoyment of his former job primarily to those with whom he worked.
“People don’t always see the respect, support and teamwork that was formed in this building over the years,” offered Carey. “This was the best job I ever had because you were the best people I ever worked with.”
Many of those same people welcomed Carey with a loud ovation, a show of respect reserved for all who took the stage Saturday.
Greensburg Mayor Gary Herbert was one of three former employees who were recognized as “local celebrities” during the presentation.
The Mayor, who was on a plane to Japan at the time of Saturday’s program, recalled his days at the plant as a supervisor and offered brief humorous anecdotes about some of his former co-workers.
“All associates and members of management are the reason for GECOM’s success,” noted the Mayor, who mentioned GECOM was the first Japanese company to settle in the Tree City. Herbert’s present trip to the Land of the Rising Sun, he said, is to thank those behind some of Japan’s top companies that have created plants in Greensburg. Sharon Herbert, the First Lady of Greensburg, also once worked at GECOM. She was present Saturday and received applause as she was recognized for her service and community contributions.
The two other “celebrities” on hand were City Council president Darrell Polling and City Council member Jamie Cain.
Both are previous employees of the factory, with Cain having spent 14 years in the plant.
Cain said his time at the plant allowed him to return to school and earn a degree, and he thanked the company for how often it gives back to the community.
Quoting Winston Churchill, Cain said, “You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.”
Polling offered similar remarks.
“Thank you for being such a huge part of our city,” the Council president said. Polling called GECOM “a good neighbor” and mentioned how the group has contributed much to events such as the annual Relay for Life.
“You take pride in your work,” he said. “Excellence is expected and rewarded here.”
In a show of GECOM’s support for the community, President Makoto Sakamoto presented Decatur County United Fund executive director Joane Cunningham with a check for $10,000. Cunningham stated her organization would prove to be “good stewards” of the donation and expressed her appreciation.
Earlier in the day, GECOM executive general manager Jeff Wright reflected on the 25 years that had brought them to Saturday, talking of the dismal United States recession of the mid-1980s, the difficult economic period in the U.S. over the last several years and natural disasters abroad. Those storms were weathered and the challenges of the past have made the company stronger, he said.
“Everyone works together to accomplish our goals,” Wright said, adding he hoped to be present at the company’s 50th anniversary in 2037.
District 67 State Rep. Randy Frye (R) reflected on the challenging recession of the ‘80s before stating GECOM’s success owes much to old-fashioned Hoosier work ethic.
“Our number one resource is the quality of our people,” said Frye. “They don’t mind doing a good day’s work for a good day’s pay.”
Some honored Saturday have been doing just that for 25 years.
Human Resources manager Amy Bray welcomed Sue Feaster and her husband Hale to the stage. Sue is recognized as the company’s first employee. Hale was the first off-site facility manager in North Vernon.
Others who have been with the company since 1987 are Glenn Bennett, Denise Collins, Connie Cathey, Jennifer Huneke, Gary Hash, Donna Jones, Johnny Tipton, Vicki Frazier, Marty Lacey, Sandy Moore, Julia Johnson, Becky England, Sharon Howard, Penny Newell and Dale Slaven. All stood to be recognized for their achievement.
Former employees serving the community were also recognized, including Greensburg Police Department Lieutenant Larry Dance, Cornerstone Bakery owner Linda Spitler, Greensburg Firefighters Trevor Cook and Troy Harmon, and Decatur County Paramedic Calvin Venable.
GECOM director of operations Allen Downs closed out the ceremony and offered reflections on where the company has been and hopes for where it’s going. Downs offered some of the basic tenets GECOM strives to abide by each day, such as providing a safe working environment, encouraging teamwork and cooperation and providing employees with the proper tools and training.
Downs cited GECOM’s associates as the company’s “most important resource.”
“I’m honored by your attendance,” Downs declared. “Thank you for being here today.”
Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056