Reflections on the Historic Steelton, Pennsylvania Steel Plant

Posted by scapozzola on 02/19/2010

aDSC_3854 GUEST COLUMN: Ike Gittlen, who manages AAM's field operations, has authored a terrific piece (below) that reflects on the historic Steelton, Pennsylvania steel facility.  The Steelton plant is currently being upgraded, which shows that investment in American steel is possible when a market exists for its product. Arcelor/Mittal’s announcement that it will invest millions of dollars in a new bloom furnace at its Steelton, PA facility is great news for the people who work at the Steelton facility, the community, and those interested in a manufacturing resurgence in America.  My great-grandfather emigrated to Steelton in the early 1900’s, my father was born there and worked at the plant, and I spent 30 years working at Steelton, with 18 of those as the Local Steelworker Union President.  Steelton is in my blood and of enduring concern.  Steelton is the little engine that could.  For two decades, starting in the mid-1970’s, the Steelton Plant (then owned by Bethlehem Steel Corporation) was on industrial life-support.  Over that period, Steelton defied the fate of so many old steel mills.  Through hard work, lots of sacrifice, prudent investment in equipment, and continuous change, labor and management transformed Steelton into a world-class competitor.  But the definition of world-class is a moving target and this announcement is proof that Steelton will continue to build on its long-term viability.  The primary Steelton Product is railroad rail, and this investment helps position the plant to be the domestic supplier for the new generation of high-speed rail that is now being developed by the Obama Administration. Steelton is a small community and the plant is its major economic lifeline.  It remains a major manufacturing facility for the central Pennsylvania region.  Steelton directly provides high-quality jobs with healthcare and pensions for better than six hundred employees.  Since every manufacturing job generates up to six more jobs in the economy, the plant can claim it is responsible for some thirty-six hundred jobs.  This flows into store purchases, tax base, community stability, and a good environment for raising children and sustaining the social fabric.  So investment in Steelton should be a cause of celebration by the community and those who are interested in fixing our economic woes. Steelton is one of many manufacturing facilities who have successfully struggled to survive in an economic environment that is heavily tilted against domestic manufacturing success.  Steelton and its many kindred workplaces around the country are hidden from the public eye as the media plies the “manufacturing is dead” storyline.  But this announcement shows it ain’t necessarily so.  Cheers to the people of the Steelton Plant, the Steelton community, and Arcelor/Mittal for this move forward.  They are proving that it still can be “Made in America.”

2 comments

Good job and well-said, Ike.

Good job and well-said, Ike. A primary concern of ours must always be to present a vision of American manufacturing so that all will realize our industry is vital to the nation's economy -- and its workers a valued national resource, being the most competitive and highly skilled in the world. What Steelton provides is one terrific example.

Hey Ike: Raise your audacious

Hey Ike: Raise your audacious voice in Steelton with this column and submit it to the Harrisburg Patriot for publication to enlist your brother & sister rail-makers to advocate 'Keep it made in America!" Is that suit your wearing in the accompanying pix union-made?

This is exactly what more

This is exactly what more Americans need to know about manufacturing. Modern, family supporting jobs, anchor of a community. Just need a level playing field and a market. Nicely put, Ike!

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