Sunday, November 11, 2001

P&G's Ivorydale complex evolving

New research center planned, Crisco plant changing hands

By Cliff Peale
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        From candles and soap in Procter & Gamble Co.'s early days to fat substitutes and liquid laundry surfactant now, the graying complex of low-lying buildings off Spring Grove Avenue has charted the company's history.

        Dubbed Ivorydale in the early days to reflect P&G's new floating soap, the 200-acre complex still is a hub of many brands, but is undergoing some of the biggest changes in its 115-year history.

        They include $450 million in capital investment in the last five years, and a new research center for fabric and home care.

        But P&G has cut back capacity severely at its Olean plant across the street. And the Crisco plant at the complex's south end soon will belong to J.M. Smucker Co. when it closes the purchase of Crisco and Jif next spring.

        The transition comes as P&G decides whether to close, sell or shrink plants all over the globe. In the last several years, it has closed six plants in North America — including a soap plant at Ivorydale — sold two and shut down lines at three others.

        The closings are an often unglamorous part of P&G's heralded restructuring, one that has eliminated hundreds of jobs and saved millions of dollars.

        But the nearly half-billion dollars invested at Ivorydale makes managers confident that it is among the locations that will grow.

        “We think it's very attractive for new business as the company makes those decisions,” said Dwain Carver, manager of the Ivorydale complex, P&G's oldest manufacturing plant.

        The plant decisions are but one leg of a global restructuring that will reduce the company's payroll by nearly one-quarter to about 95,000 workers by 2005.

        In that global picture, Ivorydale is not that big a deal. P&G employs more workers at its downtown headquarters, the Health Care Research Center in Mason and other locations.

        But in Cincinnati, Ivorydale's long history, central location and high-impact employment make it a keystone.

        There have been nearly continuous changes in the product mix made at Ivorydale. In 1998, for example, P&G announced it would close a powder laundry detergent plant there.

        About 550 employees at Ivorydale make everything from bar soaps like Zest, Safeguard and Ivory to Olay and Noxzema cleansing cloths to the surfactant for Tide and Cheer liquid laundry detergent.

        They are joined by the Crisco plant — not included in that total employment — and the newly built structure that houses production of Olean, P&G's much-heralded but just-as-disappointing fat substitute.

        Starting in 1996, P&G spent more than $200 million to build the Olean plant, and promised to create more than 100 jobs there. But sales of the product have not responded, and P&G cut production levelsearlier this year.

        In a city of Cincinnati report this summer evaluating the city tax incentive given to P&G to build the plant, officials said the Olean plant “was being evaluated for its long-term viability.”

        Mr. Carver would not comment on the future of the Olean plant, but did acknowledge that it was operating at well under full capacity.

        The second big change is Crisco, which will soon be owned by Smucker, based in Orrville, Ohio. The maker of jams and jellies said the close quarters would bring opportunities for new alliances.

        Mr. Carver said that was possible. He also noted that the building's position near the edge of the property would make it easy to set the plant off from the ones P&G will retain.

        The Ivorydale complex also includes a research hub that employs hundreds of additional workers. That will only increase as P&G opens its new $85 million Fabric and Home Care Innovation Center, which will open in January 2003 with about 265 employees relocated from around the area.


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