Ormet’s new owner gains approval; USW future still in doubt

HANNIBAL – Ohio Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, hopes officials with Niagara Worldwide will do their best to rekindle the cold Ormet aluminum smelter, now that the company’s $25.25 million purchase of the plant is official.

Although Niagara President Eric J. Spirtas announced the purchase June 27, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Mary Walrath needed to approve the sale, which she did Friday. The purchase price is a fraction of the $221 million Wayzata Investment Partners wanted to pay for the plant, prior to its October shutdown amid an electricity rate dispute with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and American Electric Power.

“I am not sure what their plans are, but I would still like to see Ormet operate as a smelter,” Cera said. “I sure hope it doesn’t just end up like Mingo (Junction).”

Cera referenced the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. Mingo Junction plant that sold for $20 million in 2012 as part of the RG Steel bankruptcy. This happened after the plant saw the installation of a $115 million electric arc furnace just eight years prior.

Niagara is based in Niagara, Wisc. and acquires, markets, manages and sells idle industrial properties and assets. Spirtas said the firm acquires properties such as Ormet in hopes of enacting a business and feasibility plan for them.

“We are communicating with logical users for the property and interested parties,” Spirtas said Monday. “This is a great site.”

Spirtas said he cannot commit to being able to re-fire the smelter, but he is going to set up shop in Hannibal to explore all options. Natural gas driller Triad Hunter, a subsidiary of Houston, Texas-based Magnum Hunter Resources, recently agreed to pay $22.3 million to purchase the rights to the oil and natural gas under the shuttered plant. Spirtas said he sees this as a positive for the potential redevelopment.

“We are going to do anything we can to get jobs on that site,” he said. “We are going to find out what that property can support.”

Roughly 900 displaced Ormet workers, represented by United Steelworkers Local No. 5724, wonder if they will ever again have the chance to make aluminum in Monroe County. USW spokesman Tony Montana had no comment on the matter.