By Burton Speakman
and Ed Runyan
The new owner of the RG Steel facility here wants to see the plant making steel again.
Chuck Betters, owner of C.J. Betters Enterprises in Monaca, Pa., said his company bid $17 million for the site.
Companies owed money by RG Steel offered an additional $1 million in credit to a winning bidder that agreed not to demolish the plant for nine months; to look at the company records; and to try to restart production.
“We were going to do that [attempt to restart the business] anyway,” he said. “We’re like the dog chasing the car. We caught it. Now we’ve got to figure out what to do with it.”
The next step is to finish the closing process, and Betters said he was hopeful it will be completed in the next two to three weeks.
“Once we get through that we’ll start to examine the records and see what we can do,” he said. “If there’s a way to get it restarted, we’ll do it.”
At this point, Betters said he could not guarantee what level of production would occur at the plant nor how many people would be employed.
“We’re going to do everything we can to bring that plant back to life,” he said. “We’re going to need time and cooperation.”
The agreement still needs to be approved by the bankruptcy judge in Delaware and union officials. In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an objection to the sale of the Warren and Sparrows Point, Md., facilities last week due to the bill of sale not including information about U.S. Environmental Protection Agency complaints that have been filed against both plants. The Ohio EPA also has outstanding violations regarding the Warren plant.
The Warren United Steel Workers office has declined to comment.
Tony Montana, spokesman for the USW national office, said the union is still bound by a confidentiality agreement.
There will need to be large capital investment in the facility, Betters said, adding the plant “needs a lot of work done.”
A feasibility study will determine what can be done and how much it would cost, Betters said.
Bud McManus, who has worked at the mill 44 years, most recently in the shipping department, said the new owner’s remarks about trying to run some of the mill is good news for the younger workers.
“It’s the younger guys I care about,” McManus said, adding that he’ll be at full retirement age in a year.
“If he’s going to run part of it, that’s something. It’s a little bit of good news,” McManus said. “At least somebody will have a job.”
Earlier Wednesday, workers were worried the plant would be closed based on the suspected fate of the RG Steel facility in Sparrows Point. That facility is believed to have been sold to a scrapping company.
Betters said he wanted to comment publicly about his plans for the Warren facility because “there’s been so much uncertainty. ... Hopefully what I’ve said helps a little.”
Depending on how many workers come back to the plant, the Mahoning Valley may see a positive economic impact.
The economic impact of the plant shutting down already has been felt in the area in terms of unemployment, said George Zeller, Cleveland-based economic research analyst.
Despite the layoffs, “Youngstown-Warren still had the second-best ‘job growth’ reading in these figures last week among Ohio’s urban regions, well below Dayton-Springfield that had a better one,” he said.
Strength elsewhere in the region, including the new steel mill at the old Brier Hill site, V&M Star and the Lordstown GM assembly plant, has helped to reduce the impact, Zeller said.
“This really comes down to the impact on these employees. It’ going to make it much harder for these families to afford their bills” if the company doesn’t reopen fully, he said.