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July 15, 2013

Procter & Gamble rose and fell in Chenango County

Mark Simonson
The Daily Star

---- — It was just what Chenango County didn’t need or want to hear in July 1993 — more bad economic news. 

Procter & Gamble, the Cincinnati, Ohio-based health and beauty products conglomerate, announced plans Thursday, July 15, to close 30 plants and cut 13,000 jobs worldwide. Three P&G facilities in the Norwich area made up Chenango County’s largest employer, with 1,236 jobs. The waiting began for many to find out how these worldwide cuts would affect the area.

Regarding the possible cuts, then-Norwich Mayor Marjorie Chomyszak said, “We’ve already been hit in the solar plexus and then some,” referring to just a year earlier when Victory Markets Inc. moved to Utica, taking 500 jobs with it. Other cuts by Simmonds Precision and the National Bank and Trust Co. put another 100 out of work.

It turned out to be a Black Monday for Norwich on Sept. 13, when P&G announced at a news conference at its Eaton Avenue building that 320 local positions would be cut. It meant the closing of the Norwich P&G headquarters on Eaton Avenue, and it affected employment at the Woods Corners product development and chemical manufacturing facility north of the city. The North Norwich production plant was not affected. More than half of the jobs were moved to Cincinnati.

G. Gilbert Cloyd, vice president of pharmaceuticals and research and development at P&G, said the cuts were not because of financial problems but because of anticipated changes in the industry, prompted by President Clinton’s healthcare reform plans. P&G also announced plans to bring about 250 product development jobs to Woods Corners by the year 2000. The company also promised to help the community find new tenants for the Eaton Avenue building.

Part of that plan came true less than a year later, when it was reported by The Daily Star on March 31, 1994, that the process of hiring 100 at Woods Corners had begun. Then, on Jan. 11, 1995 P&G announced that it would donate the Eaton Avenue building to the Chenango County Area Corp., an economic development group formed in 1966. P&G also set up a $5.8 million fund to maintain the building, to then be called the Eaton Center.

This was the beginning of the end of an era for Procter & Gamble in Norwich that had begun in 1982, after P&G’s acquisition of Norwich Eaton Pharmaceuticals Inc. The name of the company was changed in March 1992 to Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals.

P&G then announced in April 2001 that it was selling its North Norwich plant to a New Jersey-based company, Outsourcing Services Group, to make P&G prescription drugs as well as other companies’ products. The nearly 350 jobs were spared in the OSG purchase, ending a long period of uncertainty over the future of the building. P&G continued to operate its Woods Corners product development plant.

With the OSG purchase, the company brought back the name of “Norwich Pharmaceuticals,” adding it to the sign in front of the North Norwich facility in August 2001. OSG was then bought in August 2007 by AFI Partners, a private equity firm based in New York City. Manufacturing continued uninterrupted with the purchase.

The end was in sight for P&G in Norwich during 2007. In June, P&G said it was looking to outsource work at the Woods Corners facility. In October, 120 of the 160 employees were offered to relocate to P&G headquarters in Cincinnati. Woods Corners would officially close in December 2009.

While it did close, the facility wasn’t vacant for long. It was announced on Monday, Nov. 30, 2009, that Agro Farma, the Columbus-based based company that produces Chobani Greek-style yogurt, had its eye on the 335,000-square-foot facility. It was anticipated that 350 jobs could be created in Norwich over the next three years. The closing on the property soon followed.

This weekend: The long-held belief that talking pictures debuted in Oneonta in August 1926 will be reexamined and an asterisk placed next to it.

City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.