Georgetown County officials concerned about future of steel mill

Georgetown Steel Mill (Source: Live 5)
Georgetown Steel Mill (Source: Live 5)

GEORGETOWN COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The company that closed the Georgetown steel mill about a year and a half ago is in talks with potential buyers for the plant.

A spokesperson for ArcelorMittal confirms the company is actively marketing the plant, and released a statement saying that the company "is in ongoing discussions with several interested parties."

But ArcelorMittal is offering no further details, "due to ongoing discussions."

The news of potential buyers is news to County officials.

"Traditionally a purchase of that size doesn't happen without local governments being involved," said director of Georgetown County Economic Development, Brian Tucker.

Tucker added there haven't been meaningful conversations with the company in about a year-and-a-half.

ArcelorMittal announced in May of 2015 it would be shutting down the wire rod facility, and closed the doors several months later. It left about 250 workers in search of jobs, according to Tucker.

Since 2015, the mill has been sitting empty on the 120-acre plus property.

"It looks rundown," said Jennifer Baker-Cohan, a massage therapist who works near the mill. "It's rusty."

"They need to clean it up," added Jamie Adams, a master barber. "Knock it down. Get rid of it, and let's move on. Let's do something productive."

Tucker said the county had engaged a study on alternate use of the steel mill property.

There had been talk of a waterfront development.

"Maybe for it to be made into something more family and kid friendly," Baker-Cohan said. "Shops, businesses, a park for the kids."

"The more the better," Adams added. "The more money, the more businesses, the more people."

"We believe there is private sector development interest in obtaining the property and developing the property," Tucker said. "But until we're able to engage with the property owner, until we're able to understand what their priorities are, it's tough to take the next step."

Tucker said the economy in Georgetown County is doing well.

"The current unemployment rate in Georgetown County is the lowest it's been since 2007," he said.  "Many, if not most of the steel mill workers have been taken in by other industries which are in a growth posture."

"I have a lot of customers who worked there and it gave them a living," Adams said. "It raised their families. In that perspective I'm sad for them, but I think a lot of them have moved on and found jobs, and their happy."

Tucker added he believes it was the company's priority to sell the mill as an ongoing operation, but isn't convinced at this point it's in the County's or community's best interest.

Meanwhile one man said his brother would be the first person in line to apply for a job if the steel mill were to reopen.

As the future of the mill is up in the air, the County plans on holding several public meetings in March seeking input from residents about what they would like to see happen.

Tucker said the county has announced three company expansions, and they are working on another.

Meantime, James E Sanderson, Jr., president of United Steel Workers Local 7898, said he is looking forward to new work at the steel mill.

"We have been informed that the company is engaged in a dialogue to reopen, and we are extremely excited and looking forward to making steel and getting good jobs that will help the overall economy of Georgetown."

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