Riding the Power Train to Success


powerTrain2Basil and Genie Drossos chalk it up to a genetic wanderlust of sorts—this desire to seek out foreign shores. Genie is a native of Paducah; Basil hails from Dixie Heights, Kentucky. They both attended Centre College and (not surprisingly) got to know each other during a study abroad program.

That set the stage for a love, a life and a future together on the road to . . . everywhere.

Befittingly for Paducah Bank’s WOW! publication, Basil began his professional life at a bank in Cincinnati. But the world called to both Basil and Genie and from there the young couple moved to Arizona where Basil earned a masters degree from The American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird) in Phoenix. And from that point forward, Basil’s career and the Drossos family’s life took flight.

“Living and working overseas is a family affair,” comments Basil. “It’s not just the bread-winner’s career. Genie left her hometown 37 years ago to go to Centre. Now, nine countries and 11 international cities later, we’re back in her generational family home.”

Genie Habacker Drossos grew up in “Woodly,” the Paducah home she’s now living in once again. Built in 1919, the home is one of those rare places that has remained in the same family since its construction.

“I have strong roots in Paducah and during all those years of living abroad, it was always comforting, I think, to know that we had this base, this place to come home to. I think it gave us some inner strength as we encountered the many and varied countries and cultures during Basil’s time with General Motors.”

Genie, and the couple’s two sons, Matt and Reid, made every attempt to get back to western Kentucky for holidays and summer vacations each year. In fact, Matt’s summer work at Denton & Keuler in Paducah influenced his choice of a career in law. Matt will soon graduate from Georgetown Law. Reid is a graduate of the University of Californa and is a land surveyor in San Diego.

Kids of international families are often referred to as third culture kids, says Basil. The boys were born in Caracas, Venezuela. “Our sons had been virtually everywhere by the time they were 18. They grew up with friends from all parts of the world; all colors, all cultures, all religions. Unquestionably, international children benefit from the linguistic skills they acquire as well as the multi-cultural experiences they encounter.”

Now the likes of Paducah Bank, of which Basil and Genie were shareholders, and CSI, on whose board Basil now sits, will also be beneficiaries of the knowledge and skills gained from a life of living abroad.

Basil recently spoke to the local Boy Scout organization in Paducah about his career, travels and the future of the automotive industry. We’d like to share some excerpts with you here in this edition of WOW!

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powerTrainAround the world in 30 years: the journey began in Detroit, then Lima, Peru, then Venezuela, then Mexico, then Chile; to Europe and Zurich, Switzerland; on to Miami and Buenos Aires, Argentina; from there to Asia: Singapore, Tokyo and finally to Paducah!

Peru is a beautiful Andean country and the people, along with the Mexicans and Brazilians are, in my view, the nicest on earth (we’re sure that’s excluding Paducah!). Today, there are 29 million people and the economy is largely based on commodity exports, especially copper and other metals.

Chile has a climate and topography much like California. The country has 16 million well-educated people, free market capitalism with a successful export-oriented economy. Santiago has skiing in the Andes an hour to the east and swimming at Vina del Mar on the Pacific an hour to the west!

While in Mexico, I worked three jobs: financial controller in Saltillo, director of purchasing and supply chain for GM de Mexico in Mexico City and plant manager of a world-class grey iron foundry and engine manufacturing plant in Toluca. Mexico is an excellent place to live and do business. It has an energetic and industrious work force, logistically next to the US and is within the NAFTA trade zone.

One of the high points in my career was the El Camino Program. In 1983, there was no such thing as a car made in Mexico and sold in the US. While I worked at the Ramos Arizpe Assembly plant in Saltillo, we transferred the production of the Chevrolet El Camino/GMC El Caballero from the Arlington, Texas plant to Ramos. We exported 30,000 cars per year for three years. Today, more than 1.5 million vehicles are manufactured in Mexico for sale in the US by all the manufacturers.

While in Argentina, I fulfilled a career dream. GM had gone out of business in the country in 1979, because of social and economic turmoil. From 1995 to 2000, our team re-established GM in the country, re-established the Chevrolet brand and built a state-of-theart, lean manufacturing complex in Rosario. The plant served as a prototype for four more, built around the world during the late 90s in Thailand, China, Poland and Brazil.

We were in Europe for the fall of the Iron Curtain and the opening of the Berlin Wall. Today’s European Community encompasses 27 nations and 495 million people, dwarfing our US population of 301 million.

Before all the international experiences of the past 30 years, Genie and Basil were just another couple of Kentucky kids coming out of Centre College. Their message for everyone is—follow your dreams and it’s great to come home!