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End Nears For Indiana Colgate-Palmolive Plant

Closure, announced in 2005, will eliminate about 115 of the remaining 200 jobs at the once-bustling facility just days before Christmas.

CLARKSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Two years after Colgate-Palmolive Co. announced plans to close its once-bustling southern Indiana factory, the end is near for most of its remaining workers.
 
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.
 
Agent Steve Lannert said he couldn't comment on possible buyers.
 
Another uncertainty is what will happen to the highly recognizable Colgate clock, which dates to 1924 and can be seen for miles on both sides of the Ohio River.
 
The Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana has listed the clock and the Colgate plant among Indiana's 10 most endangered historic sites for the past two years.
 
Colgate came to Clarksville in 1921, taking over an old state prison for about $350,000 and converting it into a soap factory. In 1941-42, the plant was expanded to also produce toothpaste, shaving cream and other toiletries. By 1964, employment hit 1,500.
 
But in October 2005, after the work force had dwindled to about 475, Colgate announced it would close the plant in a cost-cutting restructuring that moved its production to new facilities in Tennessee and Mexico.
 
Kraft said he has heard little about what might replace the plant. Because of the site's size and high-profile location near Interstate 65 and the Ohio River, he said, it could become a development that combines office, commercial and residential buildings.
 
Michael Dalby, president of One Southern Indiana, the area's chamber of commerce, said the plant's closing doesn't pose an immediate financial crisis because Colgate has been downsizing for years.
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