Signs of optimism at Granite City steel mill
More than 200 jobs are set to return as part of the Granite City Works operation is scheduled to begin operating again in mid-February, U.S. Steel said in a news release.
The company plans to “adjust its hot strip mill operating configuration to support a previously announced asset revitalization process,” U.S. Steel said.
U.S. Steel plans to begin processing slabs on the currently idled hot strip mill at Granite City Works in mid-February.
Erin Dipietro, the manager of External Communications for U.S. Steel, said about 220 jobs would be returning to Granite City Works.
About 200 of the jobs would be for union workers, Dipietro said.
In order to bring back the jobs, U.S. Steel plans to have periodic outages at Gary Works, Great Lakes Works and Mon Valley Works to improve the capabilities and reliability of the corporation’s hot strip mills, Dipietro said. She could not give specifics on the timelines of the projects.
Dipietro said U.S. Steel is carrying out the projects to improve reliability and efficiency and to “invest in our facilities to ensure we are well positioned to provide the increasingly complex products that our customers will require in the future.”
“The restart of the Granite City Works hot strip mill will help our North American Flat-Rolled customers by meeting their near-term needs, while improving our key assets,” Dipietro said in an email to the BND. “We will be able to process slabs at Granite City to account for the outages planned at our other hot strip mills in our North American Flat-Rolled segment.”
“There are no layoffs planned for other facilities in relation to this project,” Dipietro added.
Granite City Works’ blast furnaces and steelmaking facilities were idled in December of last year and the hot strip mill was idled in January of this year in response to challenging global market conditions.
About 2,000 workers were laid off.
U.S. Steel said Granite City’s blast furnaces and steelmaking facilities will remain idled.
The pickle line, cold mill and finishing lines at Granite City Works will continue to operate.
Bill Plantz works at the steel plant and wasn’t laid off. He was hopeful after Tuesday’s announcement.
“I hope it opens doors up and maybe step by step we could open the whole mill back up,” Plantz said.
Local politicians praised the U.S. Steel decision.
State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville, who has worked to extend unemployment benefits for Granite City steelworkers to 52 weeks from 26 weeks, welcomed Tuesday’s news.
“While it is not even close to everything we are working for, there has been some good news from the U.S. Steel plant,” Hoffman said on his Facebook page.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, also welcomed the news.
“However, more work must be done to ensure the resumption of full operations at the plant,” Bost said. “I intend to work with the incoming administration and my colleagues in Congress to combat the unfair foreign trade practices that contributed to the idling of operations at Granite City Works to begin with.”
Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler said the news was fitting for the holiday season.
“For the more than 200 employees it’s an answer to prayers before Christmas,” Prenzler said.
Photographer Steve Nagy contributed to this report.