© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
To contact us with news tips, story ideas or other related information, e-mail newsstaff@ideastream.org.

New And Familar Industries Keep Steel Strong Across Northeastern U.S.

A heavy loader at TMK IPSCO's plant in Brookfield carries stacks of steel pipe brought in from Pennsylvania.(Brian Bull)
A heavy loader at TMK IPSCO's plant in Brookfield carries stacks of steel pipe brought in from Pennsylvania.(Brian Bull)

Ernie Sexton is the site manager at TMK IPSCO's steel plant in Brookfield, Ohio. He watches as stacks of steel pipe from another plant in Pennsylvania are trucked in, then loaded onto a giant lathe for finishing.

"That's when we do the metal removal and threading of the product," explains Sexton.

The heavy-grade pipes are for the growing natural gas industry in the Marcellus and Utica Shale regions across Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York. The pipes will be used to drill wells as deep as five miles underground. Sexton says if it weren't for such operations, his plant wouldn't exist.

"We're a relatively new facility, we just opened in March 2010," continues Sexton. "So this is all new to us."

Nancy Gravatt of the American Iron and Steel Institute says while the U.S. steel industry is still behind where it was prior to the recession, she expects steel shipments to rise 7 percent over last year. And one-fourth of those shipments will be tubes and pipes. Natural gas operations account for most of the gain, though energy markets such as solar and wind, and deep sea drilling are also boosting production.

"So we expect, and I think analysts predict for the next ten years, to see strong, continuing demand from the energy sector."

Another industry boosting U.S. steel is automotive. Full shifts have resumed at Republic Steel, a 125-year-old company in Canton. After laying off more than a thousand workers in 2009, it's rehired 400 in the last year. In a dusty railyard that's part of Republic's vast lot, a crane dumps heaps of scrap metal into a towering clamshell bucket.

Republic's marketing director, Mark Huemme, says the scrap will be melted into a molten heap of steel.

"At that point of time then it could go into a bottom-poured ingot...into applications that might be an automotive component, a heavy truck component…a part for a caterpillar vehicle."

Huemme says Republic expects to see 15-percent growth in sales this year versus 2010. More than half of the company's output is driven by vehicle sales, which have seen double-digit growth since last year. And industry reps in the northeast aren't worried yet about cheaper Chinese steel cutting in. The plants and mills here are practically next door to the natural gas and automotive sites they sell to…which keeps costs down.