Wheeling, West Virginia was once a town dominated by the steel industry. As far back as the mid-1800s, the town was known as the center of the nail manufacturing industry.
By the end of the Civil War, plants in the area and in nearby Ohio expanded their reach and the town became a site for sheet mills, open heath steelwork, and more. World War I brought a huge need for products as did the next World War as well.
But when competition from foreign steel infringed on the American steel industry in the later years of the 20th century, Wheeling suffered. And though the steel industry in that town still employs locals, the glory days of steel are gone.
However, a handful of senators from West Virginia and neighboring Ohio are working on legislation that would lower the cost of producing domestic steel, notes an article in the Herald Star.
U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Robert Casey, D-Pa.; and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., introduced the Steel Industry Preservation Act last week. U.S. Reps. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., and Mike Doyle, D-Pa., introduced companion legislation in the House.
“Liquid steel production helps dispose of hazardous waste and recycle it into a new, innovative product that helps our steel industry compete,” Senator Brown explained in regards to the proposed legislation. “This credit [outlined in the legislation] will encourage companies to produce liquid steel, cut down on production costs and support jobs in our steel industry.”
“The steel industry is critical to American manufacturing, energy production and national security,” adds Brown, “and it employs thousands of people in West Virginia and around the country.”
The senator also noted that some 150,000 Americans still work in the steel industry in this country.
The move comes at the same time ACERO Junction plans to restart the old electric arc furnace at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corporation’s Mingo Junction. ACERO Junction is an unidentified group of investors that plan to purchase slabs to roll into sheet steel.
The mill at Mingo Junction on the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel property has been still for eight years. The Russian firm that owned it closed the doors in 2009.
ACERO has been vocal about the fact that they recognize the impact the closure had on the town and add that they hope to have at least a portion of the plant up and running within the next few weeks.
Furthermore, the new operation means jobs for 350 area residents and, hopefully, the proposed legislation will result in many more jobs for those who live in Wheeling, which has a population of about 28,000.
The most recent census showed about one-fifth of Wheeling families living below the poverty line. The demise of the steel industry likely contributed to that high number.
The steel industry in West Virginia was also impacted by the filing of several hundred asbestos-related lawsuits against Wheeling Steel, involving several thousand plaintiffs.
The steel industry, for decades, made abundant use of materials containing the hazardous mineral and, as such, many workers became ill and eventually died of diseases such as mesothelioma.
Those who became ill and the families of the deceased file lawsuits seeking compensation for their injuries and suffering.