The historic Georgetown steelworks in South Carolina, which has remained idle for almost three years, was brought back to life today (25th June) heralding the arrival of Sanjeev Gupta’s global GFG Alliance in the USA.
The 14,000-worker metals, mining, engineering, energy and financial services group, which has invested billions to secure the future of industrial assets in the UK, Europe and Australia, said it now intended to do the same in North America.
Group executive chairman, Sanjeev Gupta, said the recommissioning of Georgetown’s furnaces and wire rod mills would be the first in a series of GFG projects across the US and Canada, amounting to more than $5 billion in investments over the next few years. Of this, $1 billion is expected to be invested during the coming year to acquire and develop steel, aluminium, engineering, mining, energy generation, and financial services assets. The Group is also establishing a New York regional head office as a hub for its global business.
A ceremony to reignite the first of Liberty Steel’s furnaces in the USA took place today in front of an audience of elected representatives, local dignitaries, customers, union officials, group executives from around the world and local workforce, in Georgetown, South Carolina. It marked a key milestone for Liberty Steel in the USA, and the first step towards restoring full production to the 750,000-tonne a year plant in Georgetown which was shuttered by former owners in 2015.
The restart puts around 125 steelworkers back to work immediately – many of them former employees returning to the plant. This figure will rise in the medium term to 320 direct jobs as orders and output rise for the site’s range of wire rod products, used in the automotive and construction sectors. Hundreds more jobs are expected to be created and sustained in the supply chain, the community and wider economy.
Addressing guests at the site, Sanjeev Gupta praised those who had worked hard over recent months to bring the huge production equipment back on stream following the plant’s acquisition by GFG company, Liberty Steel, in December 2017. He thanked those who supported the restart of the site including Georgetown Council, the South Carolina State Government, the United Steelworkers and many other local and industry stakeholders.
He said: “This is a historic moment in the story of Liberty Steel and GFG. It marks our first step into the American market and is as much a milestone for us in the USA as the restart of Liberty Steel Newport after a similar shutdown period was in the UK. That triggered a cascade of major acquisitions, investments and turnaround successes for GFG in the UK. I very much hope and expect that a similar journey has started today for our family in the USA.
“This first investment is our vote of confidence in the future of metals and heavy industrial sector in the USA. GFG’s economic model globally has long-term sustainability at its core, based on the development of local resources, including educational and local community development, and the production of quality products for the domestic market. We bring a new meaning to the phrase “think globally act locally”. Using this model, we see huge opportunities to create competitive, robust and integrated industrial businesses across USA. Restarting such a historic plant as Georgetown gives us a firm entry into the US market.”
He said Liberty Steel is committed to low-carbon production methods which include recycling the country’s growing mountain of scrap metal and, where possible, using renewable energy to power the Group’s furnaces and mills. This model, known as GREENSTEEL, involves the integration of energy, metal-making and downstream manufacturing to add as much value as possible within the business.
“We will aim to capture as much value as we can, creating and sustaining high-quality jobs for American workers and providing a bright future for communities such as Georgetown which has shown us great support and enthusiasm since we arrived,” he added.
Mr Gupta will be taking his message of optimism for American industry to the podium of the high-profile Steel Success Strategies conference in New York where he will be making the keynote speech tomorrow morning (26th June). At the weekend he held an inauguration event for a scrap collection and processing business Liberty Recycling has acquired in Tampa, Florida. He added that there were already several ‘active conversations in progress’ regarding the acquisition of other US assets and more details would be announced soon.
Liberty has appointed Revansidha ‘Rohit’ Gulve, formerly general manager of Gerdau Steel, Beaumont, Texas, as the new general manager of Georgetown mill. Mr Gulve said there had been a very positive response from the market to the re-opening and, once the initial phase of re-establishing production was complete, he was confident sales would climb quickly.
South Carolina State Senator, Stephen Goldfinch, pledged his support for the reopened mill. He said: "As the Senator from Georgetown, I believe it’s my responsibility to ensure businesses have the environment they need to succeed within this district and beyond. My promise to Liberty and their employees is that I will do everything in my power to ensure their success."
The restart of the mill was applauded by Georgetown Mayor, Brendon Barber Sr, who said: "This will improve the quality of life for our families and impact the quality of education, economic development and jobs in our area. It will revive our economy and let folks know around the nation that Georgetown is open for business.”
James Sanderson, President of the United Steelworkers Local 7898 said: “We’re very confident that being part of the Liberty family will make Georgetown sustainable and successful. Our USW Local 7898 members are proud to return to what they sincerely enjoy doing; making great quality steel. Let’s start tapping heats and rolling quality steel.”
The sentiment was shared by Beth Stedman, President and CEO Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce who said: “We welcome Liberty Steel to Georgetown and congratulate them on their opening. We are confident their success will create additional jobs, economic opportunity, and growth for our area. We look forward to engaging with them as community partners and to watching them thrive for years to come.
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