Procter & Gamble, one of Augusta’s oldest industries, is moving its powdered-detergent operations to a facility in Louisiana and will eliminate 160 local jobs over the next 12 to 18 months.
Employees at the Mike Padgett Highway plant have been briefed on the transition, and many will be offered jobs at other Procter & Gamble sites around the nation, plant manager Marian Futrell said at a news conference Friday.
The Augusta plant will remain in operation as a manufacturer of dryer bars, a process that will require about 40 employees. Employees who wish to stay in Augusta will be able to apply for those positions, according to Kristen Soler, the site’s human resources leader.
The phasing-out of the detergent-powder operations in Augusta is part of a move to center that process at a plant in Alexandria, La., which will add about 50 jobs. That plant already makes liquid detergent, along with a facility in Lima, Ohio.
“I am pleased to share that we are able to offer transfer opportunities for every one of our employees to another P&G facility in North America,” Futrell said.
Displaced employees who wish to accept positions in Louisiana or other P&G sites will be offered transfer and moving assistance, company officials said.
The company has identified enough jobs in other areas to accommodate all local workers who wish to move and might have opportunities for spouses, too, Futrell said. Those who do not want to leave Augusta will be offered severance and retirement packages.
Soler said the plant employs about 100 contractors who provide a variety of services. She said at this point none of those jobs are going to be affected by the reorganization.
Futrell said P&G is looking at the possibility of bringing new products and more manufacturing to the plant in the future, but she declined to provide details Friday.
Augusta’s P&G detergent operations began in 1962 in negotiations with city leaders working to recruit new industry. Soon after, the company bought 240 acres to build the first synthetic-detergent manufacturing plant in the Southeast.
The plant went into production in February 1963, becoming one of the first residents of the “Miracle Mile” industrial district along Mike Padgett and Marvin Griffin Road.
As recently as 2009, the company was still adding jobs to the facility and employed 240 workers and 360 contract workers.
That year, 150 jobs and two production lines were added to the plant, which at the time was the only place making
the new Bounce Dryer Bar.
For much of its tenure, the plant has focused on making powder versions of Tide, Cheer, Draft, Ivory Snow and Gain laundry detergents.
Walter Sprouse, the executive director of the Augusta Economic Development Authority, said P&G’s decision was driven by declining market demand.
“There’s obviously no secret that the market share of powder detergent has gone down steadily for a number of years,” he said.
Those market signs pointed toward an eventual consolidation of operations for years, Sprouse said. The development authority tried to bring the consolidation of operations to Augusta, but the Louisiana plant has newer equipment and facilities, he said.
Procter & Gamble brought new product lines to the Augusta plant several years ago in an effort to compensate for the declining market share of powder detergent, Sprouse said.
“It’s important to note they are not closing the facility,” he said.
The economic impact of the job losses depends on factors such as the number of employees who retire, find other local jobs or transfer out of the city, Sprouse said. Some might find new work when Starbucks Coffee Co. and Rockwood Color and Pigment Services begin hiring for their new plants, he said.
Staff Writer Meg Mirshak contributed to this article.