BENWOOD - About 30 good jobs - that's what Benwood Mayor Ed Kuca sees when he looks at the old Wheeling Steel plant in his city where a new galvanizing operation will be located.
Tulsa, Okla.-based North American Galvanizing & Coatings Inc. has announced plans to open a new hot dip galvanizing plant in Benwood. The company will utilize the former Wheeling Steel pipe mill, located just south of the former Bellaire Toll Bridge and just north of Automatic Recycling along the Ohio River.
Mike Stroia, a salesman from North American Galvanizing's Canton, Ohio, division, noted that the river and the site's easy access by barge - along with the highway transportation network that runs through the local area - was a major selling point when the company began considering operation of a facility in Benwood. He said his firm will lease the space from the Mull Group.
Stroia described the operation as a ''service business'' that will work with other companies that produce structural steel. He said North American galvanizes fabricated steel products - such as bridge beams, guardrails, plates, fasteners and bridge expansion joints - for use in infrastructure projects.
A news release issued by North American Galvanizing states the new operation, which is expected to be online in late April, will utilize a 30-foot kettle and becomes the company's 11th hot dip galvanizing plant. Stroia said a sister operation already exists in Canton and that the two plants will rely on each other. The Canton facility is the most recent addition to the company's network of facilities.
Ronald J. Evans, North American's president and chief executive officer, said the new facility planned for Benwood will allow the company to expand its operations in the eastern half of the United States.
''Our market development activities for the greater Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania areas, currently served by our Canton, Ohio, plant, are progressing nicely,'' he said. ''The new plant, located three miles south of Wheeling, centrally located in the vicinity of Interstates 77, 70 and 79, will allow us to more economically and efficiently service these customers, others in the tri-state area, as well as in-transit work."
The plant is expected to initially employ about 20 people, to be hired locally. Stroia said, ultimately, the plant could employ as many as 30 workers.
And that's what has Kuca looking forward to the project becoming a reality.
''It is very exciting news and will definitely help our finances,'' Kuca said. ''But most important, it means ... good jobs in our city, with benefits and a decent wage. You can actually raise a family on this type of wage.''
Stroia, though, declined to provide specific information about wages and benefits. He said those details will be released when hiring begins.
Kuca said city officials met with North American Galvanizing representatives in December to discuss the company's plans. However, he said he tried not to get his hopes up, citing last year's announcement that Consol Energy Inc. would build a coal liquefaction plant in the city. Those plans were later put on hold after Consol's partner, Synthesis Energy Systems, backed out of the deal.
Still, Kuca said he and other city officials worked closely with state Sen. Jeff Kessler to ensure all the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency permits necessary for the company to open would be approved.
Kuca said all such permits are now in place.
''This is something everybody needed to hear,'' the mayor added. ''There's been so much bad news about industries closing. But everybody will benefit from this.''
Kuca said the city - and particularly the old Wheeling Steel plant - is a perfect location for an NAGC facility. He said the site already includes overhead cranes and plenty of room for the company to store its stock. He also noted it is easily accessible by tractor-trailer or barge.
North American Galvanizing has plants in Canton; Denver; Hurst, Texas; Houston; Kansas City, Mo.; Louisville; Nashville; St. Louis; and the Tulsa area.
''We have 10 other plants, we're publicly owned with no debt and we're looking to expand our business ... ,'' Stroia said. ''It's a little intimidating how many people are around who need jobs. We will probably start screening people for jobs in a few weeks.''
He noted jobs at the Benwood site will include a few supervisory positions, along with general laborers who might be called on to operate forklifts and handle materials.