Ohio Valley Top 10: No. 4 — JSW Steel Official: 1,000 Will Work at Mingo Junction Plant
STEUBENVILLE — A recently refired steel mill in Mingo Junction will employ 1,000 people as the company that purchased it earlier this years pumps $500 million into the plant, its corporate vice president said Wednesday.
Pete Vojvodich, vice president of human resources and safety for JSW Steel USA, was the guest speaker at the Jefferson County Port Authority’s annual meeting at Froehlich’s Classic Corner in December. He said the electric arc furnace at the facility is operating and there are plans to resume running the caster.
Mingo Junction Fire Chief John Wright said JSW officials requested a fire truck and firefighters be at the plant today when the caster was to be put into operation.
Vojvodich said JSW Steel USA also is investing $500 million in its Baytown, Texas, plant, which will have a $4.8 billion economic impact on that community. He expects there will be a similar impact in this area.
He said what JSW is doing in Baytown encouraged John Hritz, JSW Steel USA’s chief executive officer, to invest in the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh steel mill in Mingo Junction. India-based JSW purchased the Mingo Junction mill earlier this year from Acero Junction.
Vojvodich said JSW has purchased additional parcels of property from Frontier Industries, which bought the former plant in 2016, and the company is “hungry” for more property.
“This will be a large facility,” he said, adding equipment will be added to guarantee the quality of the steel products.
He said JSW is finding it difficult to find qualified employees. He said a generation of steelworkers has been lost because of plant closings.
“We missed a whole generation of steelmakers who left the area, and we need them back,” he said.
Vojvodich said Acero didn’t have the capital to make improvements to the Mingo Junction plant.
“We put a lot of work to get it set up, and put a lot of working capital into it,” he said.
Former steelworkers have been impressed with the capital commitment of JSW to get the Mingo Junction plant up and running, Vojvodich noted, adding the company has the support of lending institutions.
“This will not fail. (JSW) will not walk away from it,” he said.
The Mingo Junction plant had 90 workers in June, Vojvodich said. The number today is 230, and he said the company wanted to be at 500 employees by the end of the year.
JSW officials want to install a second electric-arc furnace, which will take 240 workers to operate, Vojvodich said.
All of that activity by JSW has other domestic steel producers worried, Vojvodich said, adding other steel plants have received exclusions to President Donald Trump’s steel tariffs, which JSW hasn’t been granted.
“JSW hasn’t and it is still profitable. Other companies are colluding against JSW. JSW wants to put (steelmaking) capacity into the U.S,” he said, adding that steel could be used for national defense and infrastructure projects.
“Nobody is adding capacity on U.S. soil like JSW. There is more going on at JSW that at any other steel company,” he said.
JSW is providing workers with good pay and benefits, and company leaders are committed to the workers and routinely have lunch with the steelworkers, Vojvodich said.
“Twenty-five years ago, I wanted to leave. Things were bad in the steel industry,” said Vojvodich, a graduate of Catholic Central High School in Steubenville.
JSW is relying on the experience of retired steelworkers to get the plant going, he said. Some are working part-time to help train the younger workers.
“They know how the machinery operates. The old-timers said they don’t care about the money. They just want to help,” he said.
Vojvodich said JSW officials encourage businesses dealing with JSW to stay in hotels in Steubenville.
“We are community-focused,” he said, adding JSW has provided funding to hospitals in Baytown.
Mingo Junction Village Councilman George Irvin said it was wonderful to hear the positive vision of JSW, as the village saw its budget cut in half when the mill closed and it has struggled since.
“The horizon is bright. In a few years, you will see a brand new village,” he said.
Evan Scurti, port authority executive director, said JSW is “the most exciting story in all of eastern Ohio.”
Scurti also outlined other port authority success stories in the county this year and goals for next year.