Bethlehem fields query on rod mill S.C. firm studies Sparrows Point site

July 21, 1993|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

Georgetown Steel Corp., a steel-wire-rod company based in Georgetown, S.C., has been talking to Bethlehem Steel Corp. about buying the closed rod mill at the Sparrows Point steel facility in Baltimore County, according to the head of the union in Georgetown.

Bethlehem closed the mill, which had 340 workers, in August 1992 after it could not find a buyer for the entire bar, rod and wire division. The division also included operations in Johnstown, Pa., and Lackawanna, N.Y., which were also closed.

The Sparrows Point mill made steel rods that were sold to other companies and were drawn down into wires. The wires can be used in steel cord for tires, musical instruments, screws and other industrial fasteners.

James Edward Sanderson Jr., president of Local 7898 of the United Steelworkers of America, said he was told last month by )) George White, director of industrial relations for Georgetown, that the company's board of directors was considering the purchase.

"They only indicated that they were exploring the possibility of acquiring the plant," Mr. Sanderson said. Company officials also said they might take union officials up to the Sparrows Point plant, he said.

If the mill is bought, Georgetown would use it to fashion semifinished steel, called billets, into rods, Mr. Sanderson said. The semifinished steel would come from South Carolina, where the company's plant produces more billets than its finishing operation can handle, he said.

Local 7898 representes 700 workers at the Georgetown plant, which has a total of 750 workers, Mr. Sanderson said.

Georgetown Steel is owned by Georgetown Industries Inc., a privately held company based in Charlotte, N.C., that also owns Waccamaw Corp., a housewares and home-decor products firm, and Western Lumber Co., a distributor of lumber and building materials.

The steel operation was established in 1969 by the German company Korf.

Since 1976, Georgetown Industries has undergone various ownership changes and is now owned by the Kuwaiti government.

The steel operation has annual sales of $240 million and makes 800,000 tons of steel each year, according to an Oct. 12, 1992, article in the Business Journal-Charlotte.

Calls to Roger Regelbrugge, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Georgetown Industries, were not returned.

Bethlehem spokesman Gary Graham would not confirm that Georgetown is looking at the rod mill.

Late last year, Bethlehem had a tentative agreement to sell the division to Ispat Mexicana S.A. de C.V., an Indian-owned company. But that deal fell through in April when Ispat was unable to reach a labor agreement with the Steelworkers.

Earlier this month, Bethlehem announced that it had agreed to sell its Gautier rolling mills in Johnstown, Pa. -- which was part of the closed division -- to J-Pitt Steel Inc. of Pittsburgh for an undisclosed price.

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