Submitted by Richard K. Fleischer
Part 1, The Good Years
Copperweld began as a small business at Rankin, Pa. with about 23 employees in 1915. The Plant moved to Glassport, Pa. in 1927 and began to expand. The company process unites a thick jacket of molten copper over a heated steel billet. The welded billet is then rolled into rods. Some is extruded into cable. This cable was used for conductors, overhead ground wires, messenger cable, and guy wires on overhead transmission lines.
1939 – Copperweld has a desire to make their own alloy steel for making cable and wants to insure that they have a steady supply of such alloy steel, so Copperweld announces that they will build a new Steel Division and plant in Warren, Oh. on Mahoning Ave. extension, also known as SR-45.
The company locates on a 423 acre site that had previously used by the American Puddled Iron Company. Along with the purchase of the API Co. came a 29 inch and 24 inch blooming mills. The American Puddled Iron plant was last operated by the A. M. Byers Co. of Pittsburgh from 1928 to 1930.
1940 – Copperweld goes into production. The Company uses some of the old API Co. buildings and has a total of 13 structures on the property. There are six miles of railroad track within the mill complex. There are 7 ½ acres of space that are under roof.
The two 35 ton Electric Arc Furnaces at the Warren plant are the largest EAF’s built up to that time with an annual output of 100,000 tons of alloy steel. The plant employs about 700 workers. There are five rolling mills involved in the plant. They are 29, 24, 18, 13, and 9 inch mills. The rolling mills will have a capacity of 250, 000 tons annually.
1948 – Borg-Warner tries to negotiate a takeover of Copperweld and fails.
1957 – Copperweld adds two 65 ton EAF’s, and a 35 inch blooming mill, two annealing furnaces, in addition to straightening and finishing equipment. Copperweld now has 2700 employees and produces 6% of the EAF steel in the U.S. Aristoloy is the trade name for the alloy steels made at Copperweld in Warren. Copperweld produces 800 different kinds of alloy steels. Among these are bearing quality steel, structural alloy steel, alloy tool steel, stainless steel, leadloy steel, carbon tool magna flux, aircraft quality steel, and many electric furnace carbon grades of steel.
1959 – Copperweld adds a 56 inch hot strip mill. It now has 2900 hourly employees. The plant now has an ingot production of 660,000 tons annually. In the past three years Copperweld has installed a new 75 ton EAF, a 35 inch mill, a 20 inch continuous hot mill, and new soaking pits.
1964 – Copperweld is made up of four divisions: the Steel Division in Warren; wire & Cable Division in Glassport, Pa.; Flexo Fine Wire Division at Oswego, NY. ; Ohio Seamless Tube Division at Shelby, Oh.
There are now 45 acres of ground under roof with 75 overhead cranes. Each year over 300 million kilowatt hours of electricity is used to operate the plant. That’s enough to power 74,714 homes for a year, or supply the electrical needs of city of 250,000 people.
Copperweld used 2,325,467 cubic feet of gas for it’s heating furnaces – enough to provide gas for 11,625 six room houses for a year.
There are 16 miles of railroad track on site operated by four diesel locomotives and 213 private rail cars.
About 24 MILLION gallons of water are pumped from and returned to the Mahoning River every day for cooling furnaces, soaking pits, and rolling mills.
Copperweld’s real estate and personal property taxes were $573, 127 last year. That amounts to $236 per employee.
Copperweld’s payroll in Warren for 1963 was $20,212,600.
Copperweld, over it’s four divisions employs 8,610 people.
1975 – Copperweld sets earnings records. Steel Division – Warren $123 million compared to $86.3 million the previous year. All other Copperweld Divisions saw big increases as well.
September 1975 – French conglomerate Societe Imetal run by French financier, Baron Guy de Rothschild, seeks to buy out Copperweld amidst much opposition of Copperweld management, the United Steel Workers Union, the City of Warren, and other local governments.
Copperweld workers go to Washington to demonstrate against Rothchild’s takeover of the company.
Dec. 10, 1975 – A three judge panel in Federal Court approves the takeover of Copperweld.
1976 – Copperweld has five consecutive years of record earnings and Copperweld is Societe Imetal’s most profitable division.
Copperweld Steel Co. Part II – The bad years.
1982 – Copperweld concentrates on making specialty steel bars which are used for specially machined parts for steering gears, industrial equipment, forgings, etc. Many steel companies complain about unfair foreign competition. They allege that imports are being subsidized by foreign governments and sold in the U.S. below fair market value. (This is a classic case of dumping and it’s against U.S. Trade Laws to do this). Copperweld in Warren now begins suffering financial losses. The company begins 11 consecutive years of financial losses.
1986 – Copperweld now has 1,000 hourly workers. Societe Imetal will now split up Copperweld and the Steel Division in Warren will be on it’s own. The spin-off is to keep the other divisions out of trouble if, and, when the Steel Division has to file for bankruptcy.
1987 – The Steel Division in Warren is spun-off and becomes CSC.
1989 – Japan’s Daido Steel buys a majority stake in CSC.
1991 – Warren Township approves a 10 year 75% tax abatement and $9 million for improvements. There are more charges of steel dumping by foreign producers. Japan, Russia, and Brazil are mentioned. Steel imports from Korea are up 300%, Japan up 153%, and Russian steel imports have doubled.
July 1993 – Daido Steel and French investors sell their interest in CSC. Nov. 22 CSC files for bankruptcy.
Feb. 1994 – The company sets a June 30 deadline to find a buyer for the company or close.
This is how some of Copperweld’s competition has fared over the same period of time :
LTV Canton – sold in bankruptcy, became Republic Engineered Steels; Babcock & Wilcox – closed; Green River – closed; USS Lorain – Joint venture with Kobe Steel; Bethlehem at Johnstown, Pa. – closed.
April 1995 – Hamlin Holdings of Akron to buy CSC. The Steel Workers Union takes concessions. By August the bankruptcy court approves the sale to The Reserve Group, an operating company formed by Hamlin Holdings.
July 1996 – Trumbull County grants a 60% tax abatement for improvements to the melt shop, a continuous caster, and a 35inch mill. August – Champion Twp. Grants a 50% abatement.
1997 – CSC converts an EAF to a ladle refining furnace to reduce costs.
July 1998 – Ground broken for a $100 million continuous caster that was never used. About 2 million tons of new imported steel bars cause major problems to domestic producers.
January 12, 2001 CSC filed for bankruptcy again, never getting to use the new melt shop or the continuous caster. OPERATIONS CEASED on April 13, 2001. At one point, CSC was selling product for $40 a ton less than what it cost to make.
Over the years the USW took concessions twice, giving up over $66 million in wages and benefits.
Over the years, Copperweld seems to have invested quite a bit of money in their operations. The continuous caster was supposed to be the salvation of the American steel industry. Copperweld went out of business before they could use their’s. WCI-Severstal-RG Steel had one and STILL went out of business.
I can remember reading an article on the business page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer stating that Japanese suppliers of specialty steels were selling their product in the U.S. at a cost that was 60% lower than the cost to produce it. I imagine that the Japanese government was covering their losses until companies like Copperweld and several of their domestic competitiors went out of business. Our federal government stood by and did next to nothing about it for political reasons – they wanted to keep Japan within our “sphere of influence.”
After Copperweld closed, another company moved into the new unused melt shop. That was Warren Steel Holdings. It was a Ukrainian owned company that operated off and on for a few years, then closed, due to, according to the CEO of the company, Chinese steel dumping.