Sand Springs Steel Mill Idle - For Now

Friday, October 16th 2009, 9:42 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

SAND SPRINGS, OK -- Crippled by the lagging economy, a Sand Springs steel mill is now idle. A skeleton crew is still working at Gerdau Ameristeel, but the mill's fate is far from certain.

Sand Springs Steel Mill is not grinding to a complete halt. But the Gerdau Ameristeel plant will sit idle, and no one seems to know how long it will stay that way.

"This plant is a staple of this community. And there's a lot of people depending on it," said Troy Zickefoose of the Steel Workers Union.

A company spokesperson says when Gerdau bought the plant from Sheffield Steel in 2005, it employed about 400 workers. With the economic downturn and the lagging demand for steel, the mill has now dwindled down to a skeleton crew of 30.

"Our big issue, at this particular plant, is that the plant is old, and does not conform to EPA standards after next year," Zickefoose said.

A Gerdau spokesperson says the plant needs a $100 million capital investment to become competitive.

The State Commerce and Treasury Departments came up with an incentive package to try to keep the steel mill operational. Gerdau says they're still negotiating with the state.

Even if they could make a deal, it would be two years before they would call employees back to work.

But the upgrades to the plant could mean hundreds of construction jobs for the area.

Gerdau Ameristeel plans to respond to the state's incentive package by Thanksgiving. If the company and the state can't make a deal, the facility could close altogether.