Mayor: Proctor and Gamble 'downsizing' a 'huge loss'

Procter and Gamble in Augusta (WRDW-TV)
Procter and Gamble in Augusta (WRDW-TV)
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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Nov. 9, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver and the local development authority insist they are following a playbook that could stop a planned Proctor and Gamble "downsizing" from being a total loss for the city.

"We are downsizing and restructuring," said plant manager Marian Futrell.

The announcement comes just a few years after the launch of two new brands -- the Bounce Bar and Gain in a Bag.

"The morale is high, the energy is wonderful, life is good at P&G Augusta," proclaimed Futrell back in 2009.

Sources have confirmed to News 12 that Procter and Gamble will be phasing out its current plant operations during the next 12 to 18 months. This will impact about 200 employees.

About 40 current employees will stay at the Augusta plant. Fifty more will be offered positions at plants in Alexandria, La. Manufacturing of the plant's dry products will go to the facility in Louisiana.

"It's a huge loss," Copenhaver said. "It is business, though. We are still dealing with a difficult economy."

"Everything now is trying to be lean and mean," said Henry Ingram, chairman of the Richmond County Development Authority. "Obviously, we don't want to lose any jobs. Our jobs is to bring jobs not to lose them."

Ingram says all is not lost. He points to $400 million of new investment in the area over the last year.

"$400 million translates to new jobs," Ingram said.

That jobs will come from new companies like Starbucks. The company is set to open in the same 12 to 18 month time period Proctor and Gamble expects to phase out jobs.

"My hope would be that if that is the case that with Starbucks coming online," said Copenhaver, "with Rockwood coming on line that, some of those jobs available will help absorb some of those employees."

The development authority is promising aggressive recruitment.

"So the ballgame is not over yet," Ingram said. "We had the same situation when Electrolux left, but our relationship was such that we were able to engage to bring a new division back to Augusta."

The full parking lot at the new call center completes that story, but only time will tell how this story ends.

"You are not going to have all wins," Copenhaver said. "You are going to have some losses, too."

Starbucks is promising 200 new jobs. The plant is expected to open late next year. The new chemical company, Rockwood Pigments, is also coming to the area. It will also open late next year. They are promising 140 new jobs.

We have also learned transfer opportunities will be offered to every employee. There are 39 different North America locations to choose from. If employees decide not to transfer, they will be given a severance package.

The severance package would include retraining, an allowance based on the number of years worked and benefits.

If employees decide to relocate, Procter and Gamble will pay for moving and housing expenses.

Once the transition is complete, 40 employees will continue working at the Augusta plant creating new technology and business practices that can be implemented at the Procter and Gamble's plants.

Employees have been given the weekend off to discuss this with their families.

The plant will not close before the holiday season.

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