Mingo Junction residents laud steel mill potential

ANNOUNCEMENT — John Hritz, president and CEO of JSW Steel USA, made a statement at the SelectUSA investment summit Thursday at the Gaylord International Resort in National Harbor, Md. Hritz said the investment the steelmaker is making in the Mingo Junction steelworks is planned to be as much as $500 million and is part of a $1 billion investment in facilities in Mingo Junction and Texas. He called the investment “ridiculously exciting” for Mingo Junction. Looking on from the front row is Wilbur Ross, U.S. Secretary of Commerce. -- Contributed/SelectUSA

MINGO JUNCTION — With the news Thursday of as much as a $500 million investment in the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. and a possible 500 new jobs, residents of Mingo Junction are looking forward to the future and a return to the Mingo Junction of the past.

“It’s great,” the village Mayor Ed Fithen said. “It’s a good mill, I worked there for 35 years. You go out on the streets and the past two days it is all anybody talks about.”

And the mayor is right, as residents at the Mingo Senior Citizens Center and the Parkview Inn had lots to say Friday.

Officials of JSW Steel, a leading steelmaker based in India, announced their plans and signed certificates with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Thursday during the SelectUSA Investment Summit at National Harbor, Md.

JSW initially will spend $250 million to restart the electric arc furnace and refurbish the hot strip mill and slab caster.

THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE — Edward “Bibo” Potenzini of Mingo Junction, who retired after 35 years at the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp., hopes the reopening and expansions at the mill will lead to a revitalization of the village. -- Amy Neeley

If market conditions support it, a second phase would include another investment of $250 million for a second EAF and additional hot strip mill equipment, pending the outcome of feasibility studies and permit approvals, the steelmaker said.

“I hope they do something and it takes over, brings things back,” Tom Strohmeyer of the village said. “Over half the businesses are gone. No grocery stores, not even a gas station. We have nothing here anymore.”

Local resident Fred Pernick agreed.

“It’s good for the city. We were hurting real bad,” he said. “It might bring more businesses, a bigger police force and bigger public works department. We have hope, movement, prosperity. We are moving in the right direction.”

Village Administrator Bob Smith said a new and improved village is certainly on the way.

“It’s a great happening,” he said. ” They look like they are in for the long haul. There is the tax base and the water use. It’s a win-win for the village. We are looking forward to it, that’s for sure.”

Smith’s sentiments were shared by state Sen. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction.

“This week’s announcement by JSW Steel means more jobs, more economic development and more opportunity for Southeast Ohio. We are seeing firsthand the impact the Trump administration, combined with the Ohio Senate’s policies reducing regulatory red tape, are having on our state’s manufacturing jobs,” Hoagland said.

“Alongside our higher education partners, we remain committed to providing state-of-the-art job training opportunities that ensure our work force is equipped to fill and thrive in these careers. I look forward to seeing the results of this investment in our region — it’s clear to me its best days are yet to come.”

“It’s a blessing,” said resident Therese Elder. “This time it’s real. You won’t see our guys on the streets, they will be working in the mill.”

And, Edward “Bibo” Potenzini believes this is just what his hometown needs to bring life back into the village.

“We need something like that around here,”he said. “We’ve got nothing.”

Fithen understands those feelings.

“We were down for so many years. We were scraping by for a long time,” he noted.

Village resident John Buchmelter summed up the feelings of most of the community.

“I think it’s wonderful,” he said.

Thursday’s announcement drew the praise of U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marrietta, who said it was good news for the region.

“… It means new, well-paying job opportunities and updated technology to the facility,” Johnson noted. “It’s another sign of the manufacturing resurgence in Eastern Ohio occurring right before our eyes. I’m eager and willing to meet with any group that wants to invest in the hard-working people I am privileged to represent. I’m confident that JSW Steel will quickly realize that investing in and believing in our community are great decisions — decisions where everyone wins.”

During the announcement ceremony, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross singled out work by JobsOhio and the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth for their work on the JSW project.

Ed Looman, project manager for APEG, said activity grew during the past few weeks after an initial meeting by JobsOhio with JSW a few months ago.

He said members of the JSW team met with him, Evan Scurti, executive director of the Jefferson County Port Authority, and representatives of JobsOhio met Tuesday on site at the mill.

“It definitely has been a fast-moving process since the JSW purchase of the Mingo asset became final. It’s very exciting news for Jefferson County, our region and our state,” Looman said. “JSW is a top-notch organization with a track record of success. JSW has done amazing things at its facility in Texas and I’m definitely looking forward to working with them as they do the same thing in our valley.”

He said while there were issues with Acero Junction, the company deserves “some credit for bringing steel-related jobs back to our area.”


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