Steel Hoping

THE FATE of Ohio Valley steelworkers has twisted in the wind for decades. Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, as we once knew it, has changed hands multiple times. With each new owner came renewed hope of a brighter future. Time and time again, hope faded into uncertainty and anxiety.

Gloom and doom shrouded the steel industry late this summer when the local mills were placed in U.S bankruptcy court. They were sold at prices much under their true worth.

Uncertainty again raised its fickle head. The plants became almost separate entities as they were now under the auspices of various owners.

Hope returned to Yorkville in huge doses Friday.

It came in the form of Esmark head, James P. Bouchard, who was accompanied by Ohio Gov. John Kasich. They were in the dual-county town, marking Esmark reaching a point where it could close on two Yorkville acquisitions simultaneously – as had planned originally.

Bouchard and his Esmark team had been preparing to take several matters connected to the two pending deals before a federal bankruptcy court judge in Delaware mid-week. That action can now be taken off the federal bankruptcy court’s docket, as resolutions to the issues were reached.

Bouchard announced plans to revive the large cold rolled steel facility. If, and when, the Yorkville plant resumes production, it will mean up to 160 workers will return to their jobs. They may now play out until January, but that many jobs is worth the wait.

Bouchard says he is investing $21 million into the venture. If that is the case, it signifies a long-term commitment to the plant, the village of Yorkville and the local steel industry.

One hurdle still needs to be cleared. Bouchard must reach a new contractual agreement with union workers. We believe with some give and take the two sides will reach a fair and amicable agreement. It needs to happen.

Kasich is also in line for some praise in this steel scenario, as he helped iron out some purchase snags. He helped clear the path for the accord to come to fruition.

All in all, the steel industry appears to be getting a new lease on life — again.