GEORGETOWN, SC (WCSC) - After years of debate and negotiations, the Georgetown Steel Mill will reopen under a new owner.
Liberty House announced Monday morning it had completed the purchase of the mill and will re-hire 125 former employees, eventually rebuilding the workforce up to 250 workers.
The mill closed in 2015 when more than 200 people lost their jobs, but rumors picked up earlier this year that the mill could reopen soon.
"It was wonderful welcoming news that they got here this morning," said James Sanderson, President of the United Steelworkers of American union. "It was sort of like a Christmas miracle here in Georgetown."
After the steel mill shutdown, the future of the property was unknown.
"Personally I was thinking it would be good if they would sell the steel mill and bring in some nice hotels, parks, shops," said Carla Lassiter, of Pawley's Island.
While a mixed-use space was proposed by the city for the property, ArcelorMittal finalized the sale with Liberty House Friday, however wasn't able to announce the deal until Monday.
"Throughout the process, ArcelorMittal has been steadfast in our goal of maintain the Georgetown steelmaking operation to preserved jobs and maximize the value of the property for our shareholders," said John Brett, President and CEO of ArcelorMittal USA. "While bittersweet for ArcelorMittal, we are hopeful that today's announcement is a celebration for Liberty and GFG Alliance, the United Steelworks and the Georgetown community."
Now Liberty House's mission is to reopen and produce steel like once before
"I can't be a person who denied people jobs, particularly quality jobs," said Georgetown Mayor-Elect Brendon Barber.
Barber noted throughout his mayoral campaign his support to reopen the mill.
Now 125 former employees will soon be hired to help get the mill up and running again.
"They'll be able to get back to a normal life," Barber said. "They've been out here trying to find different jobs."
"I've already had a number of people come by here today wondering when they can come back to work," Sanderson said. "That's how excited they are."
While Liberty House did not disclose how much the steel mill was purchased for, spokesperson Eoghan Mortell said it was a significant rather than a token amount.
A re-start date is tentatively planned for the Spring of 2018.
"I wish it was sooner, but I know it's going to take a lot of time to get it back in shape," said Vicky Stih, of Georgetown.
"I'm all for bringing jobs into Georgetown," Lassiter said. "I'm just hoping… that it stays open and they'll be able to keep their jobs."
Liberty House is owned by GFG Alliance, a group of energy and mining businesses headquartered in London. It has a presence in 30 countries and employs 11,500 people worldwide.
"Securing the Georgetown furnace and mill is a major milestone for us, marking our first major step in the USA," Executive Chairman of the GFG Alliance Sanjeev Gupta said in a statement. "The melting and rolling facilities here give us a formidable entry to the American market and provide a strong platform for expansion."
Mortell added the company is also in discussions with the Georgetown Council about training programs to help potential new employees.
Brian Tucker, the Georgetown County Economic Development Director, released the following statement regarding the purchase of the mill:
"With this announcement we can eagerly move forward to the mill's next chapter. Viable and sustainable employment for our residents in Georgetown County is our primary goal. We stand ready to support the company as they work to create that. Mr. Gupta has a reputation as an innovator, and we welcome innovation and entrepreneurial spirit here. We anticipate the new owners of the mill will be engaged in our community. We expect they will engage with us and work to have a positive impact on the community in the City of Georgetown and throughout the county. We wish them all the best and look forward to working with them."