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HERMITAGE Agency to help Duferco apply for grant



Published: Sun, February 9, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The project will create 15 jobs when finished and improve plant entrances and exits.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

HERMITAGE, Pa. -- The Mercer County Industrial Development Authority will help Duferco Farrell Corp. go after a state grant to help finance $6.6 million in improvements at the company's steel processing plant in Farrell.

The governor's office already has allocated $2 million to Duferco from the state's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, but the company needs to go through an authority or other government agency to file an application seeking release of the funds.

That's where the MCIDA will come in, said Charles Bestwick, MCIDA chairman.

The MCIDA board approved the plan Friday.

Robert Miller, Duferco president and chief financial officer, said the money will help finance improvements to a pickling line (an acid bath used to clean scale and other impurities from the surface of steel about to be processed) and a reheating furnace as well as some other plant work.

Improvements to the reheat furnace already have been completed, Miller said.

The pickling line, which will be done in two phases, could begin this spring with the first phase completed within six months and the final work to be started immediately thereafter, provided the steel market remains strong, he said.

Those two projects have a combined cost of about $5.3 million.

Other work

The other work includes opening a Staunton Street gate to the plant, expanding the Budd Street gate, extending the slab yard roof for additional storage of steel slabs, road resurfacing at the Roemer Boulevard gate, and improving the coil storage area.

Those projects have a combined price of $1.3 million.

Miller said the improvement will create 15 jobs immediately and perhaps more later, depending upon the market.

Duferco's cold-roll business expanded significantly last year, and the operation has developed a bottleneck around its pickling capacity, he said.

The company has had to send some of its steel out to other pickling operations at a cost of $3.7 million per year.

Upgrading the picking line will eliminate that expense and produce an additional $2 million in annual savings by reducing scrap loss and improving performance, Miller added.

A breakdown of the grant money shows $1.5 million for the pickling line, $200,000 allocated to the reheat furnace, and $300,000 earmarked for the plant access and storage improvements.

Duferco bought the plant, part of the old Sharon Steel Corp. site, in December 1998 and has put nearly $100 million in improvements into the facility since then, Miller said. The plant employs a total of 580 people.

gwin@vindy.com




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