GEORGETOWN S.C. – Officials with Liberty Steel announced they will that they will temporarily lay off or redeploy 130 employees in the Georgetown plant as the pandemic puts a financial strain on the corporation.
“Since the outbreak of COVID-19 we have seen demand for our products soften considerably and therefore we need to rebalance our production with forecast demand,” Liberty Steel USA CEO Gregory Jones said in a statement. “This is a difficult decision which hasn’t been taken lightly.”
Company leaders say they will make a decision on restarting the mill after reevaluating market conditions in three months.
James Sanderson with the United Steelworkers of America said he has been in constant contact with the company and many workers during this time. He said he supports the decision for a temporary pause on production if it means the company’s presence in the county can recover long-term.
“Liberty Steel has been a very big asset to the community. It has been an economic boost for the people here in Georgetown county,” Sanderson said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of 90 days. We don’t know where the Coronavirus is going to be at the end of 90 days.”
Liberty Steel came to the area in 2018 after the mill sat idle for three years. According to the company’s website, Liberty Steel’s South Carolina production has a capacity to make 750,000 tons of steel per year.
Georgetown economic development director, Brian Tucker said the county has weekly meetings with every major corporation. He said they plan to do what they can to help keep the plant in the area.
“That mill has been operated by a number of different organizations and they’ve come and gone and opened and closed,” Tucker said. “We were, and continue to be, optimistic that Liberty’s management and business philosophy will win the day and that they will reopen in 90 days.”
Tucker said he hopes manufacturers will better streamline operations after the pandemic. He said the county is encouraging companies start to use more local sources, it could be an opportunity to re-strengthen the county’s economy over the next few years.
“The pandemic has really highlighted some flaws in supply chain strategy where you plan on pulling a lot of your pieces and parts for your product from oversees,” Tucker said. “A lot of larger manufacturers have had to shut down because their supply chains have shut off.”
Some workers will stay on site for maintenance during the shutdown. Sanderson said he expects employees to learn more specifics, like potential benefits, in the coming weeks.
FULL Liberty Steel USA Statement:
Gregory Jones, Chief Executive Officer of LIBERTY Steel USA, said:
“Since the outbreak of COVID-19 we have seen demand for our products soften considerably and therefore we need to rebalance our production with forecast demand. This is a difficult decision which hasn’t been taken lightly. A small number of employees will remain on site to ensure that the mill is fully maintained and we will re-evaluate the position in three months’ time.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption across US industry and our customers are no exception. Like the rest of America, we are hopeful that the virus can be brought under control swiftly.
“In spite of the pandemic, we continue to work closely with the City, State and other stakeholders on a long term plan for LIBERTY Steel Georgetown and believe there is a positive future for the steelworks.”