The Ottumwa Courier


December 18, 2013

Gomez made the world taste better


"I learned a long time ago," he said, "you can't teach pride."

He likes putting out a quality product and doing it efficiently.

His job has been, in a sense, to overcome obstacles. There could be a shortage of cans, a broken machine, a storm in Kentucky that keeps the cardboard from making it to Ottumwa. During a tour of the plant, Gomez said customers don't want to know why their favorite pop isn't on the shelf. There are no good excuses for disappointing customers, he said.

"He handles stress very well. He can step back and analyze [a problem] without getting emotional," explained Murray. "He's a rock."

Bob Gomez is the type of man who would win the lottery and still come to work, ready to work, until they found a replacement, Murray said.

"That's loyalty," the boss said, adding that before retiring, Gomez "gave me one year's notice. Who else does that? He's an amazing guy."

Gomez is an Iowa farm boy from way back, he said. When the local bottling plant near Des Moines needed workers in the early 1960s, a friend of his dad called.

"Someone knew I was one of 19 children, so they must have figured, 'There's a pretty good labor pool.' I worked eight years as a union production employee."

He worked, but coming straight from an Iowa farm, he said, he had something of an advantage. He was told it'd be tough to toss the 20-pound wooden cases of soda around, but compared to throwing hay bales, that was nothing.

After eight years on the line, Gomez moved into management. He's been managing for 41 years. He likes what he does, he said, which is the only way someone can stick around so long. During his first 34 years, he helped produce more than 10 million cases of soda per year. For the last 15 years in Ottumwa, that number was above 30 million cases per year. The math says that's just over 820 million cases of pop. Murray said he feels comfortable saying Gomez has passed the point where he's assisted with the production of one billion cases of soda. That, Murray agreed, is a lot of pop.

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