The doors to the Georgetown steel mill have finally reopened, and the first 20 workers set foot on site Tuesday morning.
On April 16, 20 more workers will join them as they work to repair and maintain the plant that has sat idle since 2015, according to a press release from Liberty House, the new owners of the steel mill.
"This is a landmark day for the mill and for the city of Georgetown," Sanjeev Gupta, executive chairman of the GFG Alliance, a global group offering various services to businesses, said in the release. "There is still a lot of work to do but it is very encouraging and satisfying to see skilled and experienced steelworkers walking back through the gates to take up their jobs again."
This first group of workers are all former employees of the plant, who returned under a recall agreement with the United Steelworkers, the release states. The agreement allows them to "reclaim their previous employment."
Now, more than 300 people have applied for the first 125 available jobs. According to the release, that number is expected to grow to 250 jobs as production at the plant increases.
"Once Georgetown shut down, the chance of it reopening didn't look good, until Liberty Steel came into the picture," melt shop maintenance worker Jacob Ward said in the release. "We all prayed that they would reopen Georgetown and thankfully they have. It is a huge gain for the city and a blessing for former and new employees' families."
The mill, which closed for the first time in 2003, has a history of struggle, having closed again in 2008 and finally in 2015, leaving hundreds of workers out of jobs. Between 2003 and 2015 the plant – which at one time had nearly 1,000 employees – laid off workers.
During that time, the mill changed ownership from the International Steel Group, and was under ArcelorMittal ownership when it officially closed. In late April, ArcelorMittal announced that it entered into an agreement to sell the mill to Liberty House, a London-based company.
The Georgetown steel mill is the first plant in the United States that Liberty House has purchased, and it is planning on announcing more purchases next year, according to a press release from the company.
Throughout 2018 the steel mill will create wire rod coils. After that, the release states "the plant will expand production to meet customer demand."