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Dial Plant to Close, Affecting Employment of 140 Workers : Business: The detergent manufacturing plant ranked among the top third in production of tax revenues for the city, already hit by closure of car dealerships.


Reeling from the unexpected closures of two of its leading sales-tax producers, South Gate received another blow when Dial Corp. announced that it will close its detergent manufacturing plant in the city in December.

The plant employs more than 140 workers and ranks among the top third producers of tax revenues to South Gate, City Manager Todd W. Argow said.

"They are one of South Gate's major suppliers, and we are especially concerned with the workers," Argow said. He declined to provide specific figures on how much revenue the facility generates for South Gate.

Earlier this year, two major South Gate car dealers--Freedom Ford and Pete Ellis--closed their doors because of poor sales.

The Pete Ellis dealerships closed in February, but South Gate Motors, a Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep/Eagle dealership, has part of the Pete Ellis site, said Ruben Lopez, the deputy director for redevelopment. Freedom Ford shut down last March.

Dial officials hope to sell the South Gate plant to another detergent-producing company, but are not yet negotiating with potential buyers, said spokeswoman Nancy Dedera.

Dedera said a St. Louis plant, which makes the same products as the South Gate facility and has more capacity, will increase its production after the South Gate plant closes.

Workers at the South Gate plant had offered to take a pay cut, but the company decided that the plant still would not have been economical, Dedera said.

Howard Dickerson, manager of United Auto Workers Local 509, which represents most employees at the South Gate plant, said he is concerned that the workers won't be able to find other jobs.

"They work in assembly lines as label operators . . . mixers and other machine operators," he said. "The average age is 50 years old. They're too young to retire and too old to find another position."

The South Gate plant was opened by Purex Corp. in 1946, and at one point employed more than 275 workers. Dial Corp. took over the operations after acquiring Purex in 1986.

Citing "existing business and environmental problems," Dial eliminated 120 positions in 1988.

In February, 1986, a chlorine gas leak sent 71 people to hospitals for treatment of nausea and dizziness.

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