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Big changes set for area plants

May 30, 2012
The Herald-Star

Not much of what once was the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. is left. It probably came as no surprise to most area residents to learn last week that nearly all of the about 700 jobs remaining at old W-P Steel plants in the Ohio Valley are in jeopardy again.

RG Steel, which now owns the facilities, has issued notices of potential layoffs of more than 4,000 workers in Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland.

Issuance of the notices does not necessarily mean closure of the mills - but RG Steel has indicated it plans to idle operations in the Ohio Valley, at Warren, Ohio; and at Sparrows Point, Md.

Additional indicators of trouble have been reports the company is seeking buyers for at least some of its assets.

Sadly, the scenario is nothing new to the Ohio Valley. Between them, the old W-P Steel and Weirton Steel mills have been through multiple owners during the past couple of decades. At least ArcelorMittal, owner of the old Weirton Steel plants, seems to have stabilized its situation and local work force.

What now? RG Steel officials have been playing their cards close to the vest, but it seems certain some dramatic change is in the works. It may be a period of adjustment for RG Steel as the firm strives to overcome the lingering effects of a severe recession. Or, if the rumor mill is to be believed, it may be new ownership for the local plants.

No doubt Ohio Gov. John Kasich and W.Va. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin already are looking into the situation. We urge them and members of Congress representing both states to continue doing so in an effort to learn what, if anything, government can do to help.

It may be that neither state nor local governments have it in their power to do anything to safeguard the RG Steel mills in our area, along with the jobs of hundreds of local men and women. Despite what candidates for office often claim, saving and creating jobs is a function almost exclusively of the private sector.

But if there is anything that can be done in Columbus, Charleston or Washington to help - perhaps something on the order of loan guarantees to help RG Steel through a rough spot - it should be determined and, if feasible, undertaken.

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