Mark O'Kennon was an Assistant Manager in Quality Control for the truck and car operations, overseeing as many as 180 people at New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. when the plant closed last year. He was there for 25 years. He was 55 years old. He was also prepared for early retirement, financially and emotionally.
O' Kennon and his wife Gina already planned to move from Fremont to Pensacola, Florida, where she's got family. They've been visiting for the last 20 years. The NUMMI closure simply accelerated their move east by a few years. They listed their house and sold it. On April 2nd, he left California. Gina, who had worked in human resources in the Bay Area, moved two weeks before.
"She would have supported me trying to find a new career [in Fremont]," O'Kennon says. "But at my age, the realities are, without a college education, I might go back to square one." Now he's just looking for a job, as opposed to a career, possibly something in tourism, something to bring in a little income while he eases on in to retirement.
O'Kennon keeps in touch with NUMMI friends through Facebook. Medicine is a popular choice among the job seekers in his social circle. A number have returned to school to retrain as medical technicians or nurses. Some left the state to follow manufacturing jobs, including with Toyota. O'Kennon misses them.
"You spent 10-12 hours a day with these people, and then sometimes Saturdays." Over the course of 25 years, colleagues showed him baby pictures, and then eventually, snaps of the same kids going off to college.
The native San Franciscan also pangs for Giants games. "The year I leave, they win the World Series." The former season ticket holder had to watch the whole thing on TV.
But a year after NUMMI closed, Mark O'Kennon is at peace with LAN, or "Life After NUMMI." He prefers the slower pace of life, the lack of traffic, and the extra land that comes with a property in the Pensacola real estate market. He's taking classes at Pensacola State College now, in landscaping, to do something with that extra land.
That's O' Kennon's story. Fellow NUMMI alumnus Maria Gregg had to find a new job locally ASAP, and she found one in Sunnyvale. Shortly, I'll share a story about another colleague who left the state to land his next job.
We found former NUMMI workers for this story using the Public Insight Network. What's your story? We're all eyes. Post it here.