Appreciate investment in mill site

It’s unfortunate that BDM Warren Steel Holdings, owners of the former RG Steel mill site in Warren, likely will be remembered largely as the people who razed the last fully integrated steel mill in Warren and the Mahoning Valley.

What often is forgotten by residents and former steelworkers there is BDM’s yearlong attempt to preserve the mill coupled by an intense search for a buyer and operator with steel-making expertise that could reignite the blast furnace and return Warren to its steel-making glory days.

Sadly, the timing was simply not ideal for such an industrial resurgence of the mill, and the owners knew the plant that had operated here for nearly a century would not be salvageable.

Only then did they turn their thoughts to demolition and cleanup, always with a hope of a new type of industrial resurgence.

What also is often ignored or forgotten by those distraught over the mill’s loss is the more than $10 million the owners have pumped into cleaning up the brownfield — all private money — in the hope of making the site marketable to new industry.

Undeniably, at the end of the day these owners are businessmen who needed to see return on investment. But as one of them, Mike Bechtold of Brayman Construction Corp., the company involved in the cleanup, told us recently, they never purchased the property simply to “flip it.”

“We felt it was our obligation to clean up the site,” Bechtold said.

Inside the vast acreage of now-barren land on Warren’s south side, potential developers will find brownfield awaiting an anticipated clean bill of health from the Ohio EPA. They also will find heavy power lines and accessible by dual rail lines, attractive options.

“They took on a risk and did a phenomenal job,” said Regional Chamber of Commerce Chief Operating Officer Sarah Boyarko of the investment and remediation by BDM.

As a result, already two companies have placed the property on their “short list” for potential development.

When Charles Betters, a businessman from western Pennsylvania heading up BDM, first took over operations, he told us he wanted to restart the mill because, hailing from Aliquippa, Pa., he said he knew first-hand what the loss of a mill could do to a community.

We hope, at the end of the day, the transformation of this mill site is completed with the revitalization Betters and his partners are hoping for. But until then, we must respect their work, the financial investment and the commitment these owners have injected into the property.

Betters has had experience and success in finding new uses for former industrial sites in western Pennsylvania. Now let’s hope the ownership group is able to find an equal amount of cooperation and success here.