Stelco executive chair Alan Kestenbaum noted that the company’s new $30-million steel processing plant is the “first investment in a new production facility in our Hamilton Works facility this century.” – Barry Gray , The Hamilton Spectator
Stelco has unveiled a new $30-million, state-of-the-art steel processing facility in a move that is being touted as one of the biggest investments at the steelmaker’s Hamilton division in memory.
The batch annealing facility — designed to make cold-rolled steel more flexible, especially for the automotive market — replaces a similar operation on Hamilton’s Bayfront that was mothballed more than a decade ago.
“This facility is the first investment in a new production facility in our Hamilton Works facility this century,” Stelco executive chair Alan Kestenbaum said at the official opening Monday. “What a proud moment this is for us.”
The business plan is to use the giant operation to process more than 200,000 net tons of steel products per year to compete with more than 500,000 tons of similar steel that is coming into Canada from the U.S.
Stelco’s Hamilton Works has a cold-mill facility that is capable of processing much more steel than it currently does. By expanding the range of products to sell — through further processing the cold-rolled steel in the batch annealing facility — the company hopes to more fully utilize the cold mill’s capacity.
“We have a very good cold mill. But the steel that comes out doesn’t bend well. It is not flexible enough for many applications. With this apparatus, it reheats it, and gives it more properties so it can be used in more applications,” said Kestenbaum.
However, there will only be about 32 jobs connected to the facility, because the high-tech nature of steelmaking these days requires far less employment. More than 600 union members work in the Hamilton Works division of Stelco, a small fraction of the company’s former workforce.
But United Steelworkers Local 1005 president Gary Howe says he is still upbeat about the development. “It’s a positive thing to see the workplace getting some new investment and modern technology. It is good for our members.”
“It’s been quite a few years since we have seen anything like that,” Howe said.
He noted the facility will mean a greater need of expertise from skilled trades union members who work in mechanical, electrical and information-technology areas. As well, there could be job growth from increased production at the cold mill.
University of Toronto steel analyst Peter Warrian said the facility is “a good move.”
“It lets them go more upscale as they try to fight back into the auto market,” he said.
While under U.S. Steel ownership, the company lost a lot of its automotive business that Stelco’s current owners, Bedrock Industries, are trying to renegotiate.
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger said the “reawakening of Stelco” after three years of bankruptcy protection “is not only good for steelmaking in Hamilton but it is good for employees in Hamilton.”
“The U.S. Steel days are behind us, and we are on to the next iteration of Stelco that is about investment and re-purposing some of the lands we have here,” the mayor said.
Eisenberger noted the city’s steel sector is not nearly as dominant in the local economy as it once was, “but in Hamilton, steel is still very much a part of who we are.”
SOURCE: THE Hamilton spectator
by Mark McNeil
905-526-4687 | @Markatthespec