ArcelorMittal production, jobs could soon return to Georgetown

Georgetown, SC - GEORGETOWN, SC (WMBF) - Georgetown County took a hit when ArcelorMittal announced hundreds of layoffs in 2009, but officials say those jobs could soon return to the local job market.

ArcelorMittal closed in July 2009 after the steel plant announced it was experiencing a reduction of orders. More than 240 workers were booted from the plant's payroll after officials announced the Georgetown plant would cease operations until market conditions improved.

James Sanderson, president of Steelworkers Union Local 7898, said Monday he has no doubt the plant will reopen in Georgetown and resume production in the near future. An official timetable on the potential reopening, however, has not been made official by ArcelorMittal.

"Dialogue is taking place between the United Steelworkers and Arcelor Mittal," Sanderson said. "There's no doubt in the very near future a proposal will be ready that will make it possible for Arcelor Mittal to reopen very soon."

Officials claim the steel market is beginning to see steady growth, prompting the plant to potentially resume production with 200 workers.

That is not the entire workforce of about 320 possible at the mill, but business owner and city council woman Jeanette Ard said she is optimistic about the news. Her flower shop and eatery is within sight of the mill.

"You may not have a customer who is actually an employee at the steel mill, but where they spend their dollars it eventually trickles down to you," Ard said. "So it does have a direct impact on all the businesses in the city."

Ard's feeling was echoed by Georgetown resident Debra Burroughs. She knows several people laid off at the mill.

"They have families, and people are used to getting a paycheck, not half a paycheck," Burroughs said. "They're used to getting a paycheck."

Union workers have been getting a small paycheck and some unemployment benefits, but the possibility of putting people back to work on full wages means Ard supports keeping the mill going.

"We have got to have some businesses and industry in here that will sustain a family - that will support a family," she said.

Ard said as long as the mill is in operation, she does not support ideas to redevelop the land on which the mill sits.

Sanderson also said he opposes jumping into plans to redevelop the area. He said he believes efforts to add housing, businesses and tourist attraction to the waterfront can co-exist with the steel mill. He said the possibility that production will resume proves there is a future for the mill and the workers he represents.

"They're anxious. They're ready to get back to work," Sanderson said about the union workers. "That's their profession. That's their job. They love making quality-made products. So they're looking very much forward to getting back into the mill."

Should ArcelorMittal resume production, workers would be called back onto the plant's payroll based on seniority.

A spokesperson for the company has not returned a call for comment.

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