When a marriage between two people lasts 40 years, it’s generally acknowledged they’ve been doing something right.

The same can be said for a relationship between a company and the community surrounding it.

Employees of the Procter & Gamble Dover Wipes Company on West North Street celebrated that partnership Saturday, with a picnic that saw most of the firm’s 184 employees and their families enjoying food and games under a beautifully clear October sky.

“This was a good opportunity to get everyone together at the same time,” said Plant Manager Scott McNary, sitting in the shade of a tree on the company’s front lawn as children played around him.

“It’s not easy to do that when you’re running a 24-7 operation.”

That team is working with four decades of history behind it, and laying the groundwork for at least another 40 years, if not more, McNary said.

And Procter & Gamble itself has been in business since before the Civil War, McNary noted, also a big milestone.

“Stop and look at all the companies in the Fortune 500 that have been around that long,” he said. “There aren’t that many. It puts us in the company of a lot of distinguished Delaware firms.”

Even though it is one of the smaller operations owned by Procter & Gamble, the Dover plant provides 40 percent of the baby wipes products sold in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, McNary said.

Those products include Luvs Wipes and the company’s signature brand, Pampers wipes.

Coming to Dover

The Dover wipes plant was built in 1971 by the Scott Paper Company on what had been 86-acres of farmland west of the city proper.

Scott Paper merged with Kimberly-Clark in December 1995, prompting the U.S. Department of Justice to order Kimberly-Clark to divest itself of its baby wipes business. This resulted in the June 1996 sale of the Dover wipes plant to Procter & Gamble.

According to news reports at the time, Kimberly-Clark received $220 million in the transaction.

“Since Procter & Gamble had invented the concept of disposable diapers, this gave us an opportunity to get into the wipes business,” McNary said.

Procter & Gamble has spent more than $120 million to upgrade the Dover wipes operation and to expand its production capacity over the past 17 years.

In addition, the company works to be a good neighbor in the Dover community. It brings a $25 million annual payroll to the capital city and in the past fiscal year has donated more than $91,000 in community and charitable contributions, he said.

P&G Human Resources Manager Eric Craft noted the company works to have a presence at almost every large event in the state, from Punkin Chunkin to the Apple Scrapple Festival to the Delaware State Fair.

The company’s diaper changing truck has proved very popular at these venues, giving parents a private, clean and safe environment in which to change their babies’ diapers.

McNary, who has worked in nine plants in four countries, calls Dover “one of the nicest” places he’s lived in his 31-year career.

Like most large businesses, P&G has taken a few hits during the recent recession, but has emerged in relatively good shape, he said.

“We haven’t grown the way we’d like it to be, but we’ve weathered the storm fairly well,” he said, adding that Americans have come to trust and rely on P&G products.

“When I stop and look at the other facilities out there, I know we’re in a very solid position,” McNary said.