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Ecolab closure hurts Hebron

HEBRON – Ecolab’s closure is bad news for the Village of Hebron, as well as the plant’s employees.

The company announced April 15 that the Hebron facility would shut down by October, leaving 131 employees without local jobs. The company will interview the Hebron employees willing to transfer from Hebron to another Ecolab facility either in Martinsburg, West Virginia, or Joliet, Illinois, near Chicago.

Ecolab spokesman Mike Monahan said that while Hebron’s Ecolab employees are not guaranteed positions at either the Martinsburg or Joliet facility, there would be a definite preference to hire them over other applicants for available positions. “They’ve certainly got advantages,” he said. Obviously, they already have the necessary skills and are familiar with the company culture. Monahan said Ecolab would send human resource people to the Hebron facility to interview the Hebron employees. He added there are no existing plans to sell the Hebron Ecolab facility. “We have not chosen to put it up for sale,” he said, “in part because of the market.” Monahan said at this point Ecolab has no plans to reopen the facility at any time.

In January, Ecolab, a St. Paul, Minnesota based manufacturer of cleaning, sanitizing, food safety and infection prevention products and services, announced that 1,000 jobs would be cut nation wide in a company restructuring.

According to an Ecolab press release, Douglas M. Baker, Jr., Ecolab’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, said, “The restructuring steps we’re taking are designed to better position the company for today’s economic conditions and the future. These steps should lower our overall operating costs for both the near and long term, reposition our people and resources to best capitalize on the opportunities we see in our core Institutional and food and beverage businesses, and enable us to focus on driving our successful global pest elimination expansion, healthcare infection prevention business and water and energy growth initiatives.

“While we are confident these steps are the right ones for Ecolab, we regret that circumstances required associates to leave the company,” said Baker.

Hebron Village Administrator Mike McFarland said Ecolab’s closure negatively affects the village as well. He said the facility uses 10 percent of the village’s public water capacity and five percent of its sewer capacity. “That’s going to hurt,” he said.

Also, Ecolab’s original building just began paying taxes. The enterprise zone where Ecolab is located allows for a 15-year 100 percent tax abatement as an incentive to lure industry. The abatement for Ecolab’s original building expired last year. McFarland said Ecolab built an addition whose abatement expires 2012.

However, McFarland said since Ecolab doesn’t plan to sell the building any time soon, Ecolab will continue to pay property tax on the plant. Last year, Ecolab paid $3,236 to Hebron in property tax last year. “Hebron only has four levies,” he said. “We’ll take a hit on the income tax.” McFarland did not have access to Hebron Ecolab’s gross payroll and Monahan said the company doesn’t release that information.

McFarland said Ecolab is “classy operation,” with which the village enjoys an excellent relationship. “We’re disappointed,” he said, but he recognizes that these things happen.

McFarland hopes the economy will improve enough for Ecolab to re-establish operation in Hebron even though Monahan was clear the company has no plans to do so. “You never know,” said McFarland.

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