The tax abatement would preserve the jobs of 140 workers at the coke plant.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
WARREN -- International Steel Group is ready to spend $14 million or more to modernize its Warren coke production plant, but only if Trumbull County approves a tax abatement to help offset the cost.
Jeff Foster, general manager of the plant ISG bought from bankrupt LTV Steel two years ago, said the steelmaker expects to spend between $14 million and $19 million on improvements over a 10- to 15-year period.
He said the project is contingent upon approval of a 15-year, 75-percent personal property tax abatement on the improvements.
Plans include relining ISG's 85 coke ovens with new, fireproof brick, a process that will take years to complete because the ovens must be turned off one at a time and cooled to do the work. Coke, a basic ingredient in steel production, is produced in a 16-hour cooking process at 2,200 degrees.
Coke is in such high demand that ISG Warren runs its ovens around the clock all year round, Foster said, so the relining process would have to be done in stages to maintain production levels.
Other improvements planned
ISG also plans to make some building improvements at the Main Street plant and to make other equipment and operational upgrades.
Mark Zigmont, a planner for the Trumbull County Planning Commission, said ISG has promised to retain the jobs of 140 employees working at the coke plant, if the abatement is approved.
If the abatement is not granted, ISG will likely take its money and improvement plans elsewhere, he said.
"Sooner or later, those furnaces have be done or they'll have to be closed down," Zigmont said. "ISG has other coke plants. They want to do it here, but it has to make economic sense."
The coke plant is in Warren Township, but it lies within the boundaries of the Warren City School district. The abatement request must be approved by Warren Township trustees, Warren City Board of Education and Trumbull County commissioners.
Warren Township trustees are set to discuss the tax break at their regular meeting 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26, Zigmont said, and commissioners have the abatement on their agenda for Oct. 27. The Warren school board has not scheduled a meeting on the issue.