Warren Steel closing permanent

CHAMPION – Layoffs that took place in November at Warren Steel Holdings have gone from temporary to permanent.

In a federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notification, the company this week informed the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services that last week’s shutdown of the Mahoning Avenue plant was expected to be permanent.

The move resulted in the termination of all 162 employees. The notice states the “plant closing is expected to be permanent.”

The majority of the plant’s employees had remained on layoff since the end of November when the company temporarily shut down its steelmaking operations. At that time, it was expected operations would restart in the first quarter of 2016, the company said.

The WARN, dated Monday, states, “Since that time, however, unforeseeable business circumstances have arisen, including rapidly deteriorating economic conditions, loss of significant customer demand, loss of continued financing and the impending loss of electricity as evidenced by a recently received utility disconnection notice. Therefore, the company now expects its shutdown, and the corresponding layoffs, to be permanent.”

The local mill, which melts scrap metal and shapes it into products used for manufacturing, operated in part of the former Copperweld Steel property.

In a November email to the Tribune Chronicle, the company said it would idle production at the plant on or before Nov. 30, but noted it had planned to restart operations in early 2016 “contingent on market and business conditions at that time.”

The plant resumed operations in August 2014 after production ceased earlier that year because of increasing electric costs. The company said the cost of electricity had made it unprofitable to operate.

The company filed requests with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, or PUCO, to allow the mill’s electric rates to be reduced, nearly by half. After much research, testimony and at least one public hearing, that request was granted, allowing the mill to more fairly compete with competitors. The plant resumed operations that August, but in the interim had lost some workers who left during that blackout.

At the time, company leaders said efforts were being made to hire additional employees to bring the workforce up to 200.

Warren Steel Holdings was founded in 2001. While operating, the 390-plus acre facility was producing approximately 800,000 metric tons of product each year, according to information on its website. The company’s engineered products are currently used in a variety of different industries, including aerospace, mining, construction, automotive and agriculture.

In April, the company announced it had installed and successfully tested new electromagnetic stirring capabilities at its on-site caster.

“The worst impact of this that’s the people who lost their jobs,” said Champion Township Trustee Keith Bowser. “The township wasn’t receiving income tax revenue from those workers, so that doesn’t affect us. The company pays property tax. The main concern are the people in this community who lost their jobs. It not only impacts them but the entire community, the businesses here. With drilling the way it’s been and foreign dumping of a lot of steel, that’s not helping out either. Hopefully things will get back on track soon. It would be nice if the company would open the plant back up. I don’t know that they will or won’t, but it would be nice.”

Attempts by the Tribune Chronicle to reach local leaders of United Steelworkers, the union that represents some of the mill’s workers, were unsuccessful.

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