April 19, 2014

Elyria
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Republic arc project heats up in Lorain

LORAIN — While it might have been news to the worker who was doing jumping jacks to stay warm Wednesday, the $85 million construction and installation of an electric arc furnace at the Republic Steel plant is heating up.

Ground was broken in November at the plant at 1807 E. 28th St., and Republic officials say the furnace will be delivered next month from China and started by the end of July or early August. Despite cold and rain, which has made the construction site a muddy mess, Republic officials say construction is on schedule for the project, slated to create 450 jobs.

The furnace will replace the blast furnace idled in 2008 by the Great Recession. The blast furnace required a huge infrastructure, including hundreds of feet of pipes that snake around the vast plant complex heavily rutted because of truck traffic. The arc furnace requires far less.

“(That’s) part of the big, big reason a lot of people in the steel industry have been switching to electric arc furnaces,” said David Bascone, Republic’s director of administration, during a Wednesday tour of the site. “It’s exciting. I can’t wait until we’re melting.”

Between 250 and 300 workers are involved in the project, according to Jesse Crabtree, the process engineer helping to oversee the project. The furnace, which will be about 50 feet high, will produce liquid steel poured into eight 80-ton steel ladles that are about 20 feet high and 15 feet long. The ladles will be carried by steel J-hooks to railroad cars around the plant.

The project, which includes local and state tax breaks that work out to about $25,000 per job, was announced in November 2011 and is designed to spark a resurgence in Lorain’s steel industry. The plant dates back to 1895 when the Johnson Steel Street Rail Company opened a mill there.

Its owners have included Johnson Steel, Lorain Steel, National Tube Company of U.S. Steel and Lorain Cuyahoga Works of U.S. Steel, before becoming USS/KOBE in 1989. Canton-based Republic, founded in 1896 and owned by the Guadalajara, Mexico-based Grupo Simec, employs about 530 hourly and salaried workers at the facility.

Bascone said the company wants a mix of new workers who have both experience and fresh new ideas fitting in with Republic’s philosophy.

“Our ownership and our leadership are definitely committed to this company, this plant and this location,” he said. “I don’t know what says that better than writing an $85 million check.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.