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Toilet Paper Manufacturer to Expand Plant in Oxnard

March 14, 1991|SANTIAGO O'DONNELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Oxnard strengthened its position Wednesday as the toilet paper capital of the western United States--a development that brought expressions of delight from city officials.

Oxnard Mayor Nao Takasugi was among those on hand as Procter & Gamble formally announced the multimillion-dollar expansion of a paper mill that will bring 220 new jobs to the city and increase the city's toilet paper tonnage dramatically.

At a news conference called to announce the expansion at the only plant west of the Rockies in which industry leader Charmin toilet paper is made, Takasugi said he is proud of Oxnard's leadership in the field.

"Toilet paper is a necessity of life," he said. "Any town would be happy to have a company like Procter & Gamble."

Oxnard Councilman Manuel Lopez, who was also on hand for the announcement, was equally enthusiastic.

"This is a good product that will provide a lot of jobs," he said. "I don't think it's a stigma for the city. Everybody uses toilet paper, and it's a clean manufacturing industry."

Company officials, wary of giving up their competitive edge, would not reveal just how much toilet paper comes out of Oxnard, how much revenue it produces or how the Oxnard plant compares with the company's three other toilet paper factories in Green Bay, Wis., Albany, Ga., and Mehoopany, Pa.

"All I can say is that Oxnard is the prime producer in the West," P & G Plant Manager Carlton Sherman said. "And our product is the No. 1 seller in the nation."

Art Gonthier, P & G operating department manager, said the expansion was prompted by the rapid growth of prospective customers on the West Coast.

"This is the fastest growing market in the country, and we expect to increase our share," he said.

The Oxnard plant's bathrooms are stocked with Charmin toilet paper and Bounty paper towels, which are also produced in Oxnard and installed at the plant partly for informal testing by the company's 400 local workers.

"Believe me, some of our employees are our harshest critics," he added.

Still, each of the few employees interviewed during a tour of the plant Thursday swore by the product.

"This is by far the best toilet paper," said employee Steve Long, as he loaded nine-foot paper rolls weighing more than a ton into a huge separating machine. "Anybody who ever used it would realize it is the softest without any doubt. Besides, we need only one ply to get the right thickness. Other companies have to use two plys, and they can come apart."

Nearby, quality control inspector Gonzalo Lorona smelled a couple of rolls to make sure that the perfumed scent was acceptable.

"The customers want a soft, scented smell in their bathroom," he said. "I guarantee you this paper smells good, and there's no grease, dirt or lint, like you might find in other brands."

Lorona, who stocks his own bathroom with Charmin paper, said no other product will do. "You buy another brand--I won't name names--and it goes faster, it doesn't last nearly as long. Believe me, I did it once and learned my lesson."

Company pride runs all the way to the top of the operation.

"It may be toilet paper, but I prefer to call it a business," Plant Engineer Robert E. Paulger said. "It's obviously a product we all depend upon, and we're proud to be the best sellers."

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