Historic changes for the region's steel industry are starting to be realized following a federal bankruptcy court judge approving several sales of assets - steel mills - which have been owned for a little more than a year by now bankrupt RG Steel.
One of the most historic aspects of these transactions is they are forever severing any sort of formal business based "family ties" that had for decades previously unified the mills as being part of a rare steel industry dynasty: Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp.
RG Steel's bankruptcy has proven gut wrenching and devastating to individuals, families and communities within driving distance of any of the mills: Warren, Steubenville, Mingo, Yorkville, Martins Ferry, Follansbee and Sparrows Point, Md.
Timing is everything, even in the steel industry.
Experts in the steel industry and in several related fields continue to see the unusual "fire sale" pace RG set for selling the assets as having been detrimental rather than positive, in that possible bidders may not even have been aware the process had started much less was coming to a conclusion.
Each of the plants owned by RG will now be heading down an individual path, some see flickers of hope at the moment when it comes to the possibility of re-establishing some level of production at their respective mill.
But nothing could really or can really be done to begin an ownership change until court approval was or is given for each proposed change of ownership.
Now that those seals of approval from the court have started to happen, the dominos are beginning to fall, as details small and large surface as direct results of the action and coming changes in ownership, and each has to be reviewed, addressed and gain approval from the court.
It appears that process has begun.
Proof of that process getting under way will be marked by a unique gathering of union officials in Pittsburgh on Monday.
The meeting: one of last times presidents of the local unions whose members work for RG Steel, and are represented by the United Steelworkers Union, will come together to discuss the facts of day to day life under the ownership of the now bankrupt company owned and controlled by billionaire Ira L. Rennert.
The Mingo plant -
Ernie Gambellin, president of the Steubenville based USW Local 1190, leads a group of steelworkers who literally work on two different sides of the Ohio River, and whose experiences over the past few years could not have been more different.
"I will be holding a special informational meeting Monday at the union hall in Steubenville at 7 p.m. I hope to have some answers for our membership concerning things like healthcare, and of our status when it comes to our jobs," said Gambellin Saturday afternoon.
Not content to simply sit back and wait for the end of the mill's life to be dealt a death blow by an unknown new ownership - essentially, a name without a face - he and several of the local union officers drove overnight to the Delaware court for final sale hearing a few days ago.
The final ok for the purchase of the Mingo works was expected to be recorded that day.
A chance opportunity to discuss the pending relationship on a face to face basis came about in the halls of the courthouse that afternoon.
It is too soon for either of the two entities to say it was much more than an unplanned opportunity to put faces to names.
But that was enough for the local steelworkers who chose instead to see the sale as possibly the first movement in a potentially positive direction for a long closed door.
The men of 1190 were introduced by a mutual acquaintance there to Craig Slater the man from Frontier who has been given the lead in the Mingo transaction.
In a phone interview Friday, Slater confirmed Frontier is considering a number of options for the future of the Mingo Junction mills various resources which might include operation of portions of the facility such as the 80-inch and the virtually brand new electric arc furnace there.
Slater said in his opinion the action made by the steelworkers who traveled to the Delaware court spoke well of the deep commitment still held for operating a successful steel business among the local workforce.
As the company considers the future direction for the mill and the resources there initial activities will be getting underway including work to assess the site's resources and their respective conditions.
The door is open to qualified entities possibly interested in investing in backing some level of a productive future for the mill, shared Frontier's Slater.
He offered that there is every possibility that an informal 90 day window will be put in place, during which the activity on site will largely focus on not only the plant as it exists now, but what other steel industry experts they may choose to involve in the assessment process might suggest in the way of possible short and long-term scenarios.
The Steubenville mill is expected to be scrapped.
It was purchased for $15 million by Wheeling based scrap entity, Strauss Industries.
The steelworkers of 1190 barely saw more than a few month's work during the term of ownership by Russian based steel giant, Severstal and none under RG's ownership.
Unemployment compensation monies, benefits of any kind including insurances for most who worked at the Steubenville mill or the Mingo facility ran out not long after their jobs evaporated several years ago.
The final hearing on the pending sale of the Yorkville mill to Esmark has been continued until Aug. 15. At the direction of the federal bankruptcy court judge, discussions were held Thursday concerning initial details of a possible labor contract that will be needed before the judge will sign off on the transaction.
It is known the parties met Thursday.
There has been no public confirmation concerning when those court directed talks will resume.
Should Esmark pull its bid, the approved back-up bidder was Frontier.
Local business leader W. Quay Mull and attorney Jo Gompers were successful in getting their purchase of the Martins Ferry plant approved this past week.
Mull's various businesses located throughout the region include a steel Arrowstrip Steel, which is located just a short distance away from the Martins Ferry mill he has just purchased.
During a recent conversation about the future plans for the galvanizing facility just purchased from RG Steel, he offered that his business goal for the plant is a return to some level of steel operations.