Hiring event planned for Koppers employees

MAKING PLANS — Discussing a July 20 hiring event with representatives of JSW Steel are Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle Executive Director Pat Ford, left and Jefferson County Port Authority Executive Director Evan Scurti, second from right. -- Craig Howell

FOLLANSBEE — Help is on the way for the almost 50 employees set to be affected by Koppers’ decision to close down its operations in the Upper Ohio Valley.

Just last week, Koppers announced its plans to shut down its Follansbee plant, leaving 48 employees heading for the unemployment line by early August.

Now, a hiring event, organized by local industries, the Brooke County Commission and area business officials, is being planned for 9 a.m. to noon on July 20, with a goal of matching those Koppers employees with new job opportunities. Currently, the hiring event is set to be held at Vito’s 2 in Follansbee.

Brooke County Commissioner A.J. Thomas explained the plan came about with a proposal from JSW Steel, which had expressed interest in placing some of the Koppers workers.

“The concern at the beginning was the employees,” Thomas said. “We want them to stay here.”

Derek Miller, supervisor for recruiting for JSW Steel USA Ohio, said when the company heard the news about Koppers, they knew it would be an opportunity for JSW to help fill in some of their employment roster with skilled workers.

“We’re constantly looking for new talent,” Miller said.

Once word got out of JSW’s idea, Thomas, who also is a member of the board of directors for the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle began contacting other area officials to help reach out to local industries. To date, seven companies have signed on for the event, including JSW, Mountain State Carbon, Pietro Fiorentini, Wheeling-Nisshin, Jupiter Aluminum, the Frontier Group of Companies and Mondi Bags USA.

Miller calls it a win-win opportunity for the workers and the employers.

“The more options they have, the better,” he said.

Thomas noted that many of the companies signed on are relatively new to the Ohio Valley, specifically citing Pietro Fiorentini which has not yet opened its new Weirton facility.

“There are opportunities here,” Thomas said.

He also credited Pat Ford, executive director of the BDC, and Follansbee Chamber President Debbie Puskarich for their efforts

“It’s been amazing to watch them work so quickly,” Thomas said.

Ford explained much of the planning has taken place only in the last couple of days.

“In 48 hours, this happened,” Ford said, calling it a testament to the quality of the area’s work force.

Evan Scurti, executive director of the Jefferson County Port Authority, also was amazed at the turnaround and response.

“This shows we truly are a region,” he said, adding companies from Brooke and Hancock counties in West Virginia and Jefferson County in Ohio will potentially benefit. “I really give JSW credit for stepping up.”

The decision by Koppers to close the Follansbee plant is part of a previously announced plan by the company to reduce its carbon chemicals operations and focus on wood treatment products and chemicals.

The plant is located on a 33-acre site along the Ohio River and full decommissioning and cleanup is expected to last through 2020.