YORKVILLE - James Bouchard said there is much work to be done to get the Yorkville plant up and running after the anticipated approval of Esmark's purchase of the steel mill.
Bouchard, chairman and chief executive officer of Esmark, said he expects between 210 and 230 employees will be brought back to work at the plant. He said his company is talking with Dave McCall, United Steelworkers of America District 1 director.
"The whole plant is shut down and dark right now. ... We've got a lot of work ahead of us," he said, noting the company must also purchase raw materials, fuel and power. "It will take some time. The facility sits on 200 acres. ... It's not like we can wave a magic wand and start again."
File Photo by Scott McCloskey
RG Steel’s Yorkville plant is among the bankrupt company’s assets that were sold at auction this week. The site’s winning bidder was former owner Esmark.
Bouchard anticipates after the bid is approved in bankruptcy court, it will be another 15-18 months before the mill is producing steel. And the company likely won't start making a profit at the site until sometime next year, he added. Because of the workers' experience and knowledge, Bouchard noted it will make it easier to restart production.
"They produced a very great product," he said, adding his ultimate goal is to produce 40,000 tons of steel a month.
He said, however, the state of the industry in general won't make the task any easier.
"We're emerging in a horrible steel environment. We want people to please have patience," he said.
Jerry Conners, president of USW Local 1223 Yorkville, said the Yorkville plant makes cold-rolled black plate. The black plate is finished at the other facilities and made into tin plate.
"Our sister plant, Ohio Coatings, is where tin plate is made," Conners said, noting the steel made at the Yorkville plant is often used to create refrigerator doors, oil filters, buckets and tin cans.
If the bid is approved, Esmark will also own half of Ohio Coatings.
Conners said he has been a steelworker for 40 years and is hoping to reach 41 years.
"We're looking forward to working with Esmark. We're cautiously optimistic about the possibility of reaching a labor agreement and restarting the plant," Conners said.
He said the number of workers Bouchard anticipates bringing back to work would be about the same number of people who were employed there when the plant was shut down in 2009.
Esmark partnered with TCC Steel of South Korea to purchase the Yorkville plant for a reported $4.7 million.
Its previous owner, RG Steel, filed for bankruptcy May 31. Esmark once owned the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh assets until it sold them to Severstal in 2008.
Other plants once owned by Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel also were bid on this week. For example, the Martins Ferry plant was purchased for $2 million by Quay Mull, a Wheeling businessman, and lawyer Joseph Gompers. And the Mingo Junction plant was purchased for $20 million by Frontier Industrial.
The federal bankruptcy hearing to consider the RG Steel assets bids is scheduled for Wednesday in Delaware.