A Phenix City employer that has operated a 550,000-square-foot distribution center since 2013 is shutting down its local operations, with 150 workers to lose their jobs.
Vogue International, purchased in 2016 by Johnson & Johnson, a consumer health and personal care products firm, notified the City of Phenix City more than two weeks ago that it will be vacating its 903 Fontaine Road location by April 30. Employees have already been notified of the distribution facility’s closing.
“Acquisitions and mergers can be exciting, but also very concerning as most plant closures and company vacancies are due to large acquisitions and the relocation of assets. Unfortunately, that is what we are experiencing with this facility’s upcoming shutdown,” Shaun Culligan, Phenix City’s manager of economic development, said in a release from the city Tuesday.
Johnson & Johnson completed its $3.3 billion acquisition of privately held Vogue International LLC in July 2016. The parent company’s products include Band-Aid, Neutrogena, Tylenol, Motrin, Listerine and an array of baby items.
Headquartered in the Tampa, Fla., suburb of Clearwater, Vogue is a manufacturer and distributor of products that include salon hair-care items. Its brands include OGX, Maui Moisture, Proganix and FX. Its products can be found in 38 countries and 78,000 retail establishments, according to its LinkedIn page.
Culligan said the city is working with local, regional and state labor and workforce development and job-placement organizations to help the unemployed workers find employment as soon as possible. That includes the Alabama Department of Labor and the state’s Rapid Response Team. Chattahoochee Valley Community College also will be offering training options to the Vogue workers, he said, with the state offering funds to assist with any educational courses they might need. Goodwill Industries and local employers will be hosting job fairs as well to “speed up” the re-employment process, he said.
“We always hate to lose jobs,” Phenix City Mayor Eddie Lowe said Tuesday. “It’s a decision that came from their corporate office Johnson & Johnson. It wasn’t anything that we had done wrong. They had been looking at consolidating, and you know how that goes with companies. But there’s nothing strictly against Phenix City. It’s just a way of them streamlining and doing some consolidation.”
Vogue apparently came to Phenix City initially to be near one of its key contract manufacturers, JVL Laboratories, which is located on Old Opelika Road and makes private-label personal care products.
New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson released a statement Tuesday to the Ledger-Enquirer through its media person Lindsay Hymson Schechter.
“We are continuously evaluating our manufacturing and business operations to ensure we have the right mix of talent, capabilities and resources to deliver premium hair care products to those we have the privilege to serve,” the company said.
Culligan will now begin working to fill the void that will be left by Vogue’s departure. The property the company vacated at one time was home to a large Pillowtex textile factory. Vogue International had leased about 130,000 square feet of space initially, but eventually expanded into two buildings on the Fontaine Road site for a total of 550,000 square feet.
“The space is currently some of the largest and most attractive space in the region and we plan to backfill it as quickly as possible,” Culligan said. “We are working closely with the property owner, the brokerage firm and the State of Alabama Department of Commerce to ensure this space is occupied with an employer that can quickly meet the needs of our existing and growing workforce. Furthermore, the owner is already entertaining proposals for a portion of the space.”
Lowe indicated there are “some other things on the table” to possibly generate more jobs in Phenix City.
“We do have some opportunities and potential,” he said. “Sometimes it never moves as quickly as you want it to, but the main thing is that we have opportunities and that’s all anybody can ask for.”