State OKs 5M loan for WCI



The Valley steelmaker plans to invest 36.7 million in the project.
By MARC KOVAC
VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT
COLUMBUS -- WCI Steel Inc. has secured a 5 million, state-backed, low-interest loan to assist in the purchase of a new furnace at its Warren operations.
Without comment Monday, the State Controlling Board approved the release of funding, which was OK'd in December by the State Development Financing Advisory Council.
The seven-year loan will carry an interest rate of 1 percent for the first three years, then 3 percent for the remainder, state documents say.
Company spokesman Tim Roberts said the new steel reheating furnace will replace three units that have been in operation since the 1960s.
The new unit will process steel slabs into rolls, improving product quality, productivity and energy efficiency in the process, he said, adding that the company expects to save 12 million to 14 million annually as a result.
WCI plans to invest 36.7 million in the project, the majority of which will be secured internally.
Installation activities already are under way, and the new equipment should be up and running in early 2008, Roberts said.
The company has 1,330 employees, he said. It has committed to securing 1,250 at-risk jobs, with an average hourly wage of 19.59, state documents say.
In other business, the controlling board approved 3.5 million for a Youngstown company for improvements to communications towers used by law enforcement and other agencies.
Tri-County Tower Services will inspect, renovate, demolish and otherwise improve 22 radio towers across the state that formerly were part of an educational radio network but have since been transferred to the Multi-Agency Radio Communication System.
MARCS serves police, fire and emergency responders, health departments, hospitals and other agencies.
Funding approval followed discussion concerning the effectiveness of MARCS.
Sen. Ray Miller, a Columbus Democrat representing Ohio's 15th District, opposed the funding and suggested an outside contractor be hired to evaluate the system, adding the board doesn't know if it works.

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