Johnson tours Ohio Coatings facility

YORKVILLE – U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, paid a visit to Ohio Coatings Monday to tour the facility and listen in on what’s in store for the future of the company and the currently shuttered Ohio Cold Rolling Co.

OCRC was closed in late 2011, but interest in re-opening the facility started up soon after. Much of the blame for OCRC’s inactivity has been placed on James Bouchard, CEO and chairman of Esmark. Esmark currently owns 51 percent of the shares in OCRC.

During Monday’s tour, Johnson and Ohio Coatings president Jim Tennant discussed a deal that may result in new ownership.

“On April 4, there was a letter of intent signed from an interested party to potentially invest and buy out part of the shares in both the Ohio Cold Rolling Co., as well as Ohio Coatings and that’s going through the due diligence phase right now,” Tennant said. “We would like to think the whole process should wrap up within the next six weeks and we should know one way or another if it’s going to move forward.”

Tennant added that nondisclosure agreements prohibit him and his colleagues from revealing who the potential buyer is. If OCRC is re-opened, former employees will be offered jobs first, though it is not known how many gained other employment or took retirement.

Currently, 88 people work at Ohio Coatings, a producer of tin-plate steel. Ohio Coatings was established in 1993 as a joint venture between Esmark and TCC Steel, formerly Dongyang Tinplate of Seoul, South Korea. The tin-plate steel finished at Ohio Coatings is sent out all over North America to be used in a variety of goods including food cans, aerosol cans and oil filters.

Ten individuals are employed at OCRC now as part of a fire-prevention crew. If OCRC were to open fully, up to 230 people could be employed between the two Yorkville facilities. Johnson expressed optimism that those jobs could come to be a reality.

“They’re a significant employer in the area, and we want these folks to stay gainfully employed and put others to work as well,. It’s all part of our jobs and economic development work that we do, trying to put the pieces together to make sure everybody’s at the table who can solve a problem,” he said.

Johnson discussed the problem of OCRC’s closure previously with Yorkville Council and has been involved since the issue was brought to his attention.

“This is not the kind of thing where we can come in and make this deal happen, but when you’ve got the hardworking people of Eastern and Southeastern Ohio at stake here, and you’ve got a business that has proven its value to the region, I think when we get the story out there it’s an easy sell to get people to come to the table to try to make things happen,” he said.

Johnson was accompanied on the tour by members of Yorkville Council.

“We’re just really optimistic about what’s going to happen,” said Councilman Ron Emerson. “We’re hopeful the deal will go through.”

Councilwoman Karen Vargo added that they have received support from other politicians, including state Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, and state Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, and the Jefferson County Regional Planning Commission.