Alton Steel president: Sale 'right thing to do' for company

News-DemocratJuly 24, 2013 

The potential sale of Alton Steel is good news for the steel mill and its employees, the company's president said.

Company president Charlie Linnemeyer said employees were notified last week that potential buyers contacted Alton Steel Inc. owner and Alton attorney John Simmons about buying the metro-east mill.

"They came to us, and Mr. Simmons felt it was the right thing to do," Linnemeyer said. "He's always been very, very loyal to Alton Steel and he continues to be loyal to Alton Steel. He will put Alton Steel first in the best interests of Alton Steel and its employees."

Linnemeyer would not identify the interested buyers or how many are considering to make a bid, but he said potential bidders may be connected to the automotive industry. The steel mill manufactures steel bars that are made into auto parts for the industry. It has set records in production since opening for business in 2003 and plans to spend $1.7 million for expansion.

"We've been successful," he said. "We do a fair amount business for the automotive industry, and the future of the automotive industry is very bright. We will naturally grow as the automotive industry grows."

Union leader Terry Wooden is not so sure. As the long-time president of the Steelworkers Local Union 3643, of which 270 members work at Alton Steel, Wooden said he saw jobs disappear when the Alton steel mill's last owner went out of business.

"We've seen this before when Laclede went down so those jobs really impacted the area," Wooden said.

Alton Steel is in its 10th year of operation. For about 90 years, Laclede Steel produced steel at the same plant, located off Illinois 3, before production was shutdown in 1998 and the company eventually went bankrupt in 2001. New ownership and investors followed and reopened the steel mill two years later.

Wooden said he was told five parties are interested in buying the plant. But he said that investors who buy steel mills usually do not hold on to them.

"They don't buy steel mills for longevity," Wooden said. "Historically, these buyers hold onto the company for three to five years to make a profit before moving on."

Linnemeyer said this potential sale will keep the plant in operation and benefit everyone at the steel plant, including its 315 employees. He said the steel mill is not going anywhere.

"The company is going to continue," he said. "The company will not be shut down."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 618-239-2526.

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