Moved to Kentucky

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Robert and DyAnn Pagan followed Toyota to Florence, Kentucky last year.

Robert Pagan filled a number of roles at New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc., but by the end, he was training supervisors. After Toyota announced it was pulling out of the plant in August, he could see NUMMI was going to close. By that time, he also knew his wife DyAnn would not have her job at a local pre-school when the school year ended in June. They were both essentially cut loose.

So Pagan applied for a job with Toyota, knowing it would take him and his family out of state. Technically, NUMMI was a separate entity from Toyota, a subcontractor, but the Japanese auto maker offered to honor Pagan’s 19 years of service with the company if he stayed on for five years.

"That's the biggest thing - securing our retirement," the 49 year old says. By the end of February, he knew he had a new job in Florence, Kentucky.

"We’re about 20 miles outside of Cincinnati," Pagan says, "So we do have a city, if we need to get to one."

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Robert and DyAnn initially envisioned retiring to Boonville up in Mendocino County and working in a local winery there. The Pagans haven’t sold their home in Castro Valley. They’re renting it out, because they might still come back to retire in five years.

But Florence is growing on them - the people are friendlier, the pace of life is slower, the cost of living is lower - and the headlines coming out of California don’t look so good.

"What’s there to come back to, other than family and friends, you know?" Robert says.

"I wish I could take all my friends and family and bring them here and it would probably be a perfect world for me here," DyAnn says.

Pagan says a number of his friends used the bonus money they got from NUMMI at the end to relocate out of California, and into states where Toyota operates, like Mississippi. GM? Nope.

"General Motors kind of kicked us to the curb. And that’s kind of a sour taste, you know, from my perspective – and actually, I think a lot of the employees there at NUMMI."

DyAnn adds "I'd like to thank Toyota for giving my husband a job."

NUMMI famously proved the Toyota Production System could work in North America. Now Pagan helps spread TPS in Toyota plants throughout North America.

The Pagans' story tops the feature I filed for the California Report this morning:

We found former NUMMI workers for this story using the Public Insight Network. What's your story?  We're all eyes. Post it here.

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About Rachael Myrow

From KQED’s Bureau in San Jose, Rachael Myrow covers politics, economics, technology, food and culture in a vast region extending from Burlingame to Edenvale to Fremont. This follows more than seven years waking at 3 am to host the daily version of KQED's California Report, broadcast on NPR affiliates throughout the state during NPR's Morning Edition. She still guest hosts for The California Report and Forum, blogs for Bay Area Bites, and files for NPR and PRI’s The World. Before KQED, she worked for Marketplace and KPCC in Los Angeles. Follow @rachaelmyrow

Comments (8)

  1. robert pagan says:

    Nicely stated thanks

  2. Cathy Pagan says:

    This is my Brother and he and his family are truly blessed yes i miss him greatly but i had to realize that he is looking out for his family and years beyond i miss them but hopefully he comes back home But I DON’T KNOW AFTER READING WHAT HE SAID ABOUT IT’S GROWING ON HIM ? LOVE YOU GUY’S great article

  3. Mark O'Kennon says:

    Robert and I worked together the last 3 years at Nummi. His wife DyAnn and my wife Gina became friends in that time. To pack up and leave the state as we both did takes guts and for our wives to support us in that move shows the ” Stand By Your Man ” quality in both of them. Native Californians have the perception that there is no place better to live.
    Although I lived there all my life , I have no regrets with this move. We will see Robert & DyAnn soon in Kentucky.
    Can’t wait to compare notes , oh and have a pint and a shot with you both.

  4. Erich Thompson says:

    I had the pleasure of working with Robert and meeting his family. I am so glad that things have worked out so well for all of them and hope that they do come back someday.

    Erich Thompson

  5. Sara Bakner says:

    I worked with Robert Pagan and Mark O’kennon and they both are great friends and ,co-workers. I’m glad to see you both happy and successful far away from California. sure I miss our second Home “Nummi” and all the great people there but I belive we will hear some other great histories like Mark O’ kennon said “Live after Nummi”. I will start my Journey this Spring in Long Beach I keep you guys post it !!

  6. Robert Jerome Pagan says:

    Although I am happy for the outcome of my father and mothers story, I feel Sad to know many of the people are still struggling as most Californians are. A major Ideological shift for this nation is greatly needed to secure wealth and jobs not only for the richest and privileged Citizens but for all the Citizens of the United States. I also find it Sad that GM an American company has taken such a non-American stance. I too would like to thank Toyota for the opportunity and safety they have offered not only my dad but the family. Although it is hard living so far apart from them here in California, the passion and commitment Toyota has shown makes them a gem in the United States labor force.

  7. jim says:

    Robert’s story is a good one and i am glad for his success with Toyota and i wish him the best but again its one story and from one who is still employed with Toyota..The real question is who was offered continued employment with Toyota answer “management”.Yes i got a payout but with stipulations and after it was said and done it wasn’t much but people would argue that too..GM bailed on NUMMI because they were in bankruptcy and they were being protected by our GOV’T and in order to receive bailout money GM had to RE-structure and NUMMI was part of that.Toyota is the biggest seller in California, and NUMMI built between 80% to 90% Toyota and the union made huge consessions to make Toyota happy extended work force (TEMPS) ,un-scheduled overtime, attendance policy that was motified to punish the abuser’s….there was one thing that Toyota didn’t want the” union”. I’m not a big union person but i dont trust man with money and power and if the union is the best that we can do so be it.

  8. The real information of the roots and real life stories inside the depths of senior officials ,executives,CEO’S and the Nummi company as a whole will surface one day,through national media.The corporate Giants and the common mans hearts will shed light on what few have never seen and do not know.Robert Trias Chavez, 24 years 7 mo. 3 weeks service 510 5656484