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Paper Mate Writes Final Chapter

By Jorge Casuso

January 26 -- After nearly half a century as a Santa Monica institution, the Paper Mate manufacturing plant will shut its doors this year, marking what is likely the end of an era, its parent company, Sanford North America, announced Tuesday.

The company will move its “molding and point fabrication operations” to Goodyear, Arizona, and offshore, resulting in the loss of 214 local jobs that will be phased out over the next nine months, according to a statement released by Sanford.

“It was simply a business decision that we thought was unavoidable in that we lease this facility and we have excess capacity at company-owned facilities,” said Mike Finn, spokesman for Sanford, which bought Paper Mate from Gillette in 2001.

“These plans are not a reflection on Santa Monica or the hard work and dedication of our employees,” the statement said. “We plan to work with community officials and our employees to ease the impact of the closing.”

Although its work force had dwindled from more than 1,000 in its heyday, Paper Mate was the last vestige of Santa Monica’s industrial past, which included Douglas Aircraft, Louver Drapes and Merle Norman cosmetics.

“We’re seeing the end of an era,” said City Manager Susan McCarthy. “This was kind of the last big one, and it will certainly be a loss to the community.”

“It’s a shift (from traditional manufacturing) we’ve been seeing for a number of years,” said Mayor Pam O’Connor. “These transitions happen, but it’s still sad to see.

“I’m hoping those who are members of the community will be able to find other work, though I know those transitions are difficult,” O’Connor said.

Since opening its Santa Monica plant in 1957, Paper Mate has been a steady employer of lower skilled workers who may find it hard to land work in the high tech industries -- many of them entertainment and computer related -- that have displaced the city’s old manufacturing plants, observers said.

“They offered a lot of jobs to people who didn’t have highly developed skills,” said Dennis Williams, owner of Broadway sheet metal, a local construction firm that did contract work for Paper Mate for more then two decades. “And I think that’s an important component in the community.

“It’s a shame,” Williams said. “It’s a great loss to the community.”

In addition to jobs, the city will be losing an employer that was an integral part of Santa Monica, contributing to its non-profits and serving as a leading voice for its business community, civic leaders said.

“They’re a great company,” said Kathy Dodson, who heads the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. “They were involved in everything.

“They were a major benefactor of the non profits, they’ve been involved in the chamber and they’ve been a strong supporter of this city in every way,” Dodson said. “The level of the support they have given to the community I think is unprecedented.”

Bob Gabriel, a longtime civic leader whose wife runs the Santa Monica Historical Society, which received support from Paper Mate, agreed.

“Their presence was really felt in the community,” said Gabriel, who served on the City Council in the early seventies. “They’ve been around a long time. They will be missed.”

Rumors that Paper Mate days were numbered had been circulating for the past several years, and the sprawling plant and parking lot the company leases along Olympic Boulevard has been up for sale.

“The whole Westside has been in transition,” said former City Manager John Jalili. “Industrial land values were reaching a level where it was hard for industrial functions to remain. I have no doubt it will be a loss.”

“It’s the end of an era when you look at what’s gone up around them,” Dodson said. “They’re the last manufacturer that produced a utilitarian object.”

Gene Williams contributed to this report.

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