City and county prepare to help employees at idling steel mill

A Calvert City, Kentucky, steel mill that employs about 130 people expects to be idle by the end of November. The company that runs the mill, Gerdau, notified employs in a meeting Wednesday morning.

A spokeswoman for the company says it will meet with union leaders over the next few weeks. In about a month, she says the company expects to have more information about the mill’s idling and how it will impact employees.

Local 6 talked with an employee who would not talk on camera but says employees were shocked to get the news this morning and are worried about finding another job.

Gerdau, originally Gerdau Ameristeel, has operated the mill since 2004.

A spokesperson says the idling comes as more steel is being imported into the U.S. from other countries and being sold at a cheaper price, creating more competition. The spokesperson says this has been an even bigger struggle at the Calvert City mill because it doesn’t have a melt shop, which processes metal scraps into billets, or metal blocks before its formed into steel. That means billets had to be shipped to the mill, making it more costly.

Calvert City Mayor Lynn Jones says the city and county will do everything they can to help the employees.

"It’s going to be hard for them to go out into the market place locally and find jobs paying the price they’re making. They’re making $50,000 to $60,000 a year," Jones says. 

At this point, the company says there have been no plans to sell the mill.  

The idling not only impacts more than 100 businesses, but the mayor says it impacts the companies that ship the metal to the mill. Even some local businesses are concerned.

In almost 10 years of running the Rolling Pin, Jessica Story has never experienced a day like Wednesday.

"Shock, awe, tears. There’s just a veil of sadness around here," Story said.

Wednesday morning she’s says her restaurant was full of about 20 employees from the steel mill, some regulars, who found out the plant was idling by November, and they wouldn’t have work.

"It was pretty down today. Normally this is a pretty upbeat place, and it was just a real day of sadness around here," Story said.

On top of seeing friends lose their jobs, she says about 98 percent of business comes from the industry in the area.

"It’s actually scary, because you never know, it could be you," Story said.

Marshall County Judge Executive Kevin Neal says he’s waiting to get more information from Gerdau, but for now he’s working with other community leaders to provide plenty of resources to the plant’s employees.

"In the region recently we’ve had plants shut down, so it’s not just specific to our county, and we can learn from those counties that have had similar situations. So, that’s what we’re doing," Neal said.

Wednesday, people throughout the community have the employees and their families in mind.

"Sending those people lots of prayers and best wishes in their lives," Story said.

Gerdau is headquartered in Brazil, but operates 17 plants in North America and 100 additional processing sites. An office in Tampa, Florida, oversees those mills.

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