Warren Steel Holdings restarts mill operations

CHAMPION – The Mahoning Avenue steel mill, idled since March, has restarted operations, the company announced Thursday.

The restart of production at Warren Steel Holdings follows the July 23 approval by the the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to reduce the company’s electric rates to make it more competitive with other American steelmakers.

The mill manufactures high-quality carbon and alloy steel continuously cast products, operating in part of the former Copperweld Steel property.

John Scheel, vice president of WSH, called the restart the beginning of an “important new chapter for WSH.”

“Today, we are a stronger organization with an electric power supply rate that puts us on equal footing with our industry peers,” Scheel said. “This will allow us to function as a more efficient and competitive player in the marketplace, creating new opportunities for the business.”

Scheel also extended appreciation to supporters, including employees, customers and partners.

The company was founded in 2001 and is headquartered at the Warren location. The plant is capable of producing 800,000 metric tons of steel products a year, but was producing about 240,000 tons a year when it shut down March 24.

The company filed documents with the PUCO saying it will not be able to reopen without a break in its utility rates because the mill is paying electricity rates much higher than its competitors.

The company had not laid off any of its 180 workers, but rather reassigned their duties to maintenance and housekeeping.

Last month company officials said if the utility rate reduction was approved, they expected to grow production and manpower by the equivalent of more than 60 full-time workers.

That’s because the mill had been promised orders from three customers, including one to produce Oil Country Tubular Goods now being produced in Europe or South America.

PUCO granted Warren Steel Holdings a six-year rate reduction.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who was one of several elected officials to petition PUCO in favor of the rate reduction, called Thursday an “excellent day for Mahoning Valley workers and the local economy. “

“The reopening of Warren Steel Holdings will save hundreds of jobs and $53 million in employee compensation. Facility upgrades can now be made, and new jobs created,” Brown said.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, echoed the sentiment and praised PUCO for helping Warren Steel Holdings to remain competitive.