Sunday, December 2, 2007

Colgate to close before Christmas

The end is near for workers at the Colgate-Palmolive plant in Clarksville:

In three weeks, the plant will shut down its final production lines, eliminating about 115 of the remaining 200 or so jobs there just days before Christmas, company officials said.

Although the closing was announced in October 2005, many of the plant's remaining workers are struggling with the finality of it, said Juanita Sneed, president of Local 15C of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

"When it gets here, that's when it hits home," she said of the closing.

The closing of Colgate _ a mainstay of the Clarksville economy for more than 80 years _ will hit hard throughout the area, as local governments and schools lose an important tax base, and neighboring businesses lose regular customers.

At its peak in the mid-1960s, Clarksville's Colgate-Palmolive plant was filled with some 1,500 workers who made toothpaste, shaving cream and cleansers.

With hundreds of manufacturing jobs that paid an average of $22 an hour, Colgate has been "an important part of the community," said Town Council president Paul Kraft.

Overall, the company paid more than $791,000 in property taxes to Clark County and other local taxing jurisdictions in 2006.

Town Council member Gregg Isgrigg said the council has tried to hold down spending and keep its budgets tight with the approaching shutdown. But he said the closing "is definitely a concern."

Part of that concern stems from uncertainty about the future of the plant's 52-acre site.

In a statement, Colgate said the property remains on the market through Harry K. Moore Co. It initially was being offered for about $13 million.

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