Steelton, a 1.9 square-mile borough to the southeast of Harrisburg, has steel in its name and its very DNA.
Since the 1800’s it’s been producing steel at a huge plant hard by the Susquehanna River.
It’s changed owners.
It’s changed names.
But with a will made of, well, you know, the plant has survived.
“You can’t walk a few feet in Steelton without meeting somebody who works at the mill, knows somebody who works at the mill or has a family member that works at the mill,” borough manager Doug Brown said. “It’s an integral part of what our community is and it’s something we’re proud of.”
But the plant may soon be the pride and joy of a new owner.
“They told us we were up for sale,” said Ray Napoli, president of the local Steelworkers’ Union.
Napoli and several other sources confirm for ABC 27 that the mill is on the block. Officially, Arcelor Mittal refuses to comment “on rumors or market speculation.”
“They don’t know what they’re doing,” Napoli said. “One time they’re hiring, one time they’re gonna stay in business, one time they’re gonna sell. So, they’re jockeying back and forth.”
It’s jockeying that can make public officials nervous.
“They’re by far the largest consumer of our water, our sewer, the utilities, as well as the tax base that comes from the mill,” Brown said.
Brown said the company told him a few weeks ago it was up for sale, but he says he’s cautiously optimistic.
“You have to be concerned about your largest employer possibly being bought out, but you also can’t panic.”
Brown said the borough and Arcelor Mittal have a strong and open relationship and he’s confident the company will keep him informed of its intentions. Several stakeholders contacted by ABC 27 were not concerned. Their collective belief is that the mill produces high-quality rail and even if new owners come in they’ll keep right on doing what Steelton has always done: make steel.
“We’re still making money,” Napoli said. “For all the crap that’s gone on, the plant is still making money. Not the way Mister Mittal wants it, but it’s making money.”
ISG purchased the plant in 2003. Mittal Steel bought it up ISG in 2005. The company became Arcelor Mittal in 2007.
Financial experts suggest that a sluggish economy in China and depressed natural gas prices are combining to hurt the company’s bottom line and may be a reason for its attempt to sell the Steelton plant.