'We're here to stay': Georgetown steel mill officially reopens Monday

Georgetown steel mill set to open this month

The Georgetown steel mill is set to open on Monday after being closed for almost two years.
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The Georgetown steel mill is set to open on Monday after being closed for almost two years.

The once-vacant steel mill is now filled with workers wearing brightly colored hard hats as they prepare for the official opening day of the Georgetown Steel Mill.

After sitting quiet for almost two years, the mill will open on June 25.

A steel mill worker crosses the street to get to the Liberty Steel Georgetown mill. The mill, which has been renamed Liberty Steel Georgetown will reopen, hiring 125 people and eventually employing twice that amount as production increases. Josh Bell jbell@thesunnews.com

"I'm glad to have more community support, it brings the economics back up to par in this city," steel worker Boris Gibson said. "Good opportunity for young people too, getting a good start on life and building a future. I'm happy it's back open."

James Sanderson, President of United Steelworkers local talks about the re-opening of the Georgetown steel mill.

Gibson, who worked at the plant before it closed in 2015, moved to North Carolina where he went to a tech school to train for a new job. Once he found out the mill was reopening, he made the move back down to Georgetown.

"It's a relief," Gibson said. "It's a good place to work. You work with good people, you live here in the city. It's just nice to be back home."

The mill closed for the first time in 2003 and again in 2008 after struggling for a few years. Both times the mill reopened within a few weeks. When in closed in 2015, hundreds of workers were out of jobs.

The Georgetown, S.C. steel mill is set to reopen on June 25 after it sat idle for nearly two years. The plant closed its doors in 2015, laying off hundreds of workers. Now, almost 125 workers will return to work at the plant. June 21, 2018. JASON LEE jlee@thesunnews.com

The plant was originally owned by the International Steel Group, but was bought by ArcelorMittal. ArcelorMittal owned the mill when it officially closed in 2015. The company entered into an agreement with Liberty House, a London-based company in late April 2017.

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"I think it's going to help not only with the economy in Georgetown, because now you have people with meaningful jobs that can take that revenue and put it back into our economy, but I think it's just a good thing to show that the city of Georgetown historically has always been a port of entry on the South Carolina coast," Georgetown Mayor Brendon Barber said.

"We've combined tourism along with industry and we've worked together in the past and we're looking forward to working with the folks at the steel mill in the future," he said.

Barber said the city will continue to bring other businesses into the area, citing recent reports of Georgetown named the number one small coastal town in the country and a local restaurant named one of the top five seafood restaurants in the country.

In December, Tupelo Holmes, a city council member and former steel mill worker, said that many of the workers would spend time at bars and restaurants along Front Street.

When the mill closed in 2015, Holmes told The Sun News that Front Street, where many restaurants are located, felt the impact of the closure.

In April the first 20 workers set foot on the site to repair and maintain the site.

"We're here to stay," Gibson said.

The future of Georgetown’s steel mill depends on the nearby port remaining open.

A formal re-commissioning of the plant will be held on Monday, as a "symbolic milestone in the revival of steel production in the USA," a press release reads.

The ceremony will start at 10:45 a.m. at the mill, located at 1331 Dock Street.

The next steps for the mill are figuring out the best use for the port, and if it can be dredged to allow more cargo ships into Georgetown harbor, the mayor said.

"Georgetown's always been a natural port, so there's some options we can have moving forward in the future, to look at the port and how can we best utilize it," Barber said.