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Trump's tariffs revive Illinois steel plant

Trump's tariffs revive Illinois steel plant (Rachel Droze)

A steel mill in a western Illinois community is back up and running, and the owner said it’s because of President Donald Trump’s steel tariffs.

Production from the two blast furnaces at U.S. Steel’s Granite City Works screeched to a stop two and a half years ago, sending many of the former steel workers packing.

“A lot of the people who worked for the mill moved away because they needed to find work somewhere else," Granite City resident Diane Wingerter said. "It didn't look like it was coming back.”

Tom Ryan, grievance chairman at United Steelworker Local 1899, said this isn’t the first time the furnaces were shut down, but it was the longest.

“People were leaving,” steelmaker Aron Gobble said. “We heard they were done, done for good.”

To the surprise of some in Granite City, U.S. Steel decided to restart the furnaces, but Ryan said it was only a matter of time.

“I’ve been here for 39 years,” Ryan said. "Steels always been kind of a pendulum industry.”

U.S. Steel President and CEO David Burritt said President Trump’s steel tariff was the catalyst behind their decision.

“After careful consideration of market conditions and customer demand, including the impact of Section 232[, which is the tariff], the restart of the two blast furnaces at Granite City Works will allow us to serve our customers’ growing demand for high quality products melted and poured in the United States," Burritt said.

“While we’re not always supportive of everything that President Trump does, you’ve got to give credit where credit is due,” Ryan said. “I don’t think any other politician would have done this. It is an unprecedented step, so I’m sure it will help.”

U.S. Steel is currently in the process of getting the equipment back up and running.

“I’m sure it will help domestic steel across the country, but it sure did help get us going,” Ryan said. “If nothing more than just the impression that it made on management of US Steel to what they believe the future will bring.”

800 jobs are being added to get the furnaces back online.

Some positions are filled by new employees, like Aron Gobble.

“I'm glad they're open,” Gobble said. “A lot of people needed jobs. A lot of people rely on [the mill]. A lot of businesses rely on it around here. It's a good thing, good for the community.”

Other positions are filled with familiar faces.

“I've got family that the husband and wife both lost their jobs and one has been asked to come back, so they're pretty excited about that,” Wingerter said.

While Diana Wingerter works in town and not at the mill, she’s happy the clanks and clamors of steel-making will be returning to her hometown.

“Granite City was always a steel city, so it makes us have our mascot back,” Wingerter said.

According to U.S. Steel, both furnaces are expected to be fully operational by Oct. 1.

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