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Delivering on the promises for tomorrow

The Jefferson County Port Authority took a good step toward helping to restore jobs in the region Wednesday when it agreed to help JSW Steel finance improvement projects at the Mingo Junction facility.

Members of the port authority’s board approved a nonbinding reimbursement resolution which will allow it to be a conduit issuer for $42 million in bonds which will help cover the expenses of the work.

JSW, which bought the plant in 2018, is looking to modernize the facility’s electric arc furnace and make improvements to its caster line, moves which will allow it be a competitive player in the steel industry.

Upgrading the furnace is critical to the plant’s ability to produce steel. Inefficiencies and operational concerns have plagued it since it was installed in 2004 at a cost of $115 million by the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. And the caster, once among the most sophisticated in the industry, is in need of improvement.

Having both components functioning smoothly and efficiently will be a plus on many levels. In addition to allowing the plant to operate in an environmentally friendly and efficient manner, the upgrades will provide an opportunity to bring more than 300 area residents back to work at the plant that was idled in March because of COVID-19 concerns.

The decision to pursue the improvements comes at a critical time. While the World Steel Association expected the demand for steel to drop 2.4 percent to 1,725.1 million metric tons this year as a result of coronavirus concerns, the Brussels-based organization is predicting demand will increase to 1,795.1 million metric tons in 2021.

Strengthening and providing employment opportunities always have been among the goals of the port authority. By stepping up to help JSW, members of the port authority’s board and Executive Director Robert Naylor are showing they are willing to continue to deliver on those promises.

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