Floyd Cunningham, 63, and his wife, Erin Cunningham, 59, of Mackinaw, a small town near Peoria, met while working as electricians at the Mitsubishi plant. They married, he stayed on for 22 years, and she went home to raise their kids.
When the Mitsubishi plant closed in 2015, he briefly found work commuting to the Belvidere Jeep plant, but returned to Normal in 2017 as one of Rivian’s first employees.
“When I came back, this place had been shut down for two whole years,” Cunningham said. “It was dark, cold, wet, you name it, and nothing ran. I’ve seen it go from that mess to where we’re at right now.”
Cunningham, whose wife and daughter have also landed jobs at the Rivian plant, said he feels more invested in the EV startup than with Mitsubishi.
“When I was at Mitsubishi, I came in to work my 12-hour shift, I went home, that was it,” he said. “This is a different story. I was given a lot more responsibility in the very beginning, and so sometimes at home, I’m thinking about my job, what needs to be done. And I’ve never wanted a place to succeed as much as I wanted this one to.”
Stacy Cameron, 60, of Bloomington, took a job with the Mitsubishi plant in 1988 after she was laid off at the General Motors Wentzville Assembly plant near St. Louis. She worked at the Normal plant for 27 years, raising her two sons and building a career she thought would eventually take her to retirement.
Cameron remembers the day in July 2015 when those retirement dreams were dashed.
“They stopped the line, built a podium and told us that they were closing the plant,” Cameron said. “It was kind of devastating for me.”
She went back to school for a computer networking degree after the plant closed and took an office job with Bloomington-based insurance giant State Farm. Cameron discovered she “wasn’t a desk person” and returned to the factory as a quality-control technician for Rivian in November 2020.
Cameron, whose son has also joined her at the Rivian plant, said employees have been “putting in a lot of hours” as production ramps up and the processes evolve.