CHAMPION, Ohio (WKBN) – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who was instrumental in helping Warren Steel Holdings negotiate a lower electric rate to help it reopen, toured the plant on Monday.
The plant shut down in March in part because of high utility costs. It asked the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio for a price break, which Brown, D-Ohio, and Congressman Tim Ryan, D-Niles, supported by writing letters to the agency.
Plant manager John Sheel said Warren Steel Holdings was the only steel plant in Ohio that did not have a $50 power rate. He said the cost at the Champion plant was almost double that and was one of the primary reasons the plant was struggling and eventually closed.
PUCO approved the lower rates, and that deal, combined with international trade agreements, helped the steelmaker become more profitable. Saving those utility costs means its 150-member workforce will add 30 workers within the next month.
Brown said the economic future of the Mahoning Valley lies in advanced manufacturing and companies like Warren Steel Holdings need a fair playing field if they are going to be competitive.
“This is another example of the Valley coming back and more good-paying middle class jobs. We have got to continue to aggressively enforce trade rules and continually and aggressively in partnership work with local companies and local workers and local unions to rebuild this region,” Brown said.
“Making stuff is what we really need to do. Somebody really needs to make everything. We can’t just run a country with everyone cleaning each other’s suits,” Sheel said.
When the plant was home to Copperweld Steel, 1,100 people worked there.