Helping Local Mills Succeed

Just a few weeks ago the outlook for hundreds of local steelworkers was grim. RG Steel, owner of the old Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel mills, had filed for bankruptcy.

But now it appears there is hope for some of them. As we have reported, RG Steel’s Yorkville mill is being purchased by Esmark Steel, in partnership with TCC Steel of South Korea. The firms also are buying RG Steel’s 50 percent stake in the Ohio Coatings Co., which has strong links to the Yorkville mill.

More than 200 jobs may be saved if the new venture succeeds.

Esmark Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James Bouchard already has noted he is very familiar with the Yorkville situation. Esmark owned the mill just a few years ago.

“I’d like to give it one more shot here, see if there’s any magic left,” Bouchard said this week.

What a wonderful, perceptive comment. Bouchard is well aware of the capable, dedicated work force available at the Yorkville mill and Ohio Coatings. He also understands the support steel production has in the Ohio Valley.

But that will not be enough to bring the magic back to Yorkville.

As Bouchard noted, there is “a niche need” for the mill’s output, now being filled to a major extent by imported steel. Unfortunately, competing with foreign manufacturers can be difficult because some use unfair trade strategies such as “dumping” to undercut U.S. companies.

In addition to the determination Bouchard and, no doubt, local steelworkers feel about making the new venture succeed, help from state and federal governments will be needed.

In Columbus, state leaders should do all in their power to hold taxes affecting the venture down. Where they have control over issues such as environmental regulations, they should work hard to help the Yorkville mill and Ohio Coatings.

In Washington, the same holds true – though it often is more difficult to get a break from federal regulators than from those at the state level.

Federal officials also must ensure the new venture does not suffer from unfair trade practices by foreign competitors.

If all that can be done, there may indeed be magic left in Yorkville.