GEORGETOWN, SC (WMBF) - Forty workers with recall rights are back on the job at ArcelorMittal, a steel plant in Georgetown that temporarily ceased operations in July 2009.
The last handful of workers with recall rights returned to work Tuesday, just a few short weeks before production at ArcelorMittal is expected to resume.
Low demand led officials to close the doors of the steel mill in 2009, putting nearly 300 workers out of a job. Now that market conditions have started to improve, ArcelorMittal began calling back workers to the Georgetown mill in October.
Workers returning to the job earlier than the start of production were tasked with making equipment improvements, according to a spokesman for United Steel Workers.
Once the plant resumes production later this month, a total of 187 workers and 44 managers will occupy the building. An estimated 15 to 20 additional positions will be added to that roster to replace former workers who have retired.
Businesses lining the streets of Georgetown say they're looking forward to the plant welcoming back hundreds of workers.
After 40 years running Ball & Cue on Highmarket Street, Joann Elliott will be the first to say that a large number of the steel workers are the key to her restaurant's success.
"The ones working the afternoon shift would come in before they went to work," she said. "The ones working the day shift, I noticed they would stop by when they got off work."
When ArcelorMittal stopped production, a large number of Elliott's regulars stopped walking through her doors.
"We didn't know how it would affect us, but we knew it would," she explained. "I noticed the families weren't coming in like they were when the mill was running."
Lynn Mueller with the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce says Elliott wasn't the only one losing out on critical business during the steel mill's temporary shut-down.
"Every job that is lost is bad news not only for the folks who lose their jobs, but the economy," he said.
Whether or not businesses in Georgetown will fully recover from the temporary downfall in business is still to be seen. However, now that the mill is just a few weeks from re-starting production, Mueller says the community is optimistic.
"Everybody was at first skeptical," he admitted. "But [they were] hopeful. Now it appears it's actually going to happen."
Elliott says when the last of the steel workers return to ArcelorMittal on Jan. 24, she'll be ready to welcome back their business with open arms and a hot meal.
"I've seen them smiling," she said. "I've had them come by and say, 'We're going back to work. They called me back to work.'"