The town of Yorkville has ridden a roller coaster of hope concerning the steel mill that occupies a large part of town. A cautious mood of optimism prevails, as hundreds of workers could keep their jobs. RG Steel's bankruptcy placed the future of the Yorkville mill in doubt yet again. Residents have heard this sort of news before.
Lynn DeFrank only moved to this area about five years ago, but says she's never seen things worse anywhere in her travels around the United States. "We need it really bad in this area. It's very depressed," she said. "People are out of work, there's nothing for them to do. Kids are getting into trouble. I mean, it's a mess."
Members of USW Local 1223, which represents workers at the plant, might agree. The local's president says the new owners have not yet made clear when Esmark would start production.
"The last discussion that we had with Esmark, they had indicated they wanted to be back up and running sometime around October. So, I think that would be something that needs to be addressed between the parties," USW Local 1223 President Jerry Conners said.
Wages will come into the discussion. Economics in today's market for steel will play into the negotiations. Conners asserts a steel maker can make money with Yorkville's product.
He said, "Value-added products, such as tin, and other products like that, are always a going concern in a depressed market. When hot bands are selling from 580 to 620 dollars a ton, there's a larger margin, or mark-up on value-added products like tin."
Conners continued with the discussion. He saw the plant he used to work at, in Benwood, West Virginia, shut down. "Right now, because of the cheapness of the hot band, and the margin between the price of the hot band, and the price of the tinplate, it makes this product attractive for producers," Connors said.
Not only does the product remain attractive for producers, it remains attractive for workers in support jobs, such as truck drivers. Most agree the region needs the jobs.
Brad Fumerola tightened down rolls of steel coils on his truck before departing the plant grounds. "Good people that work here, good quality steel. It's something that needs to stay open for this area, to keep this steel industry alive," he said when he finished that job.
William Myers, laid off from his old job at another industrial facility, agreed. "I hope everything works out for them, as bad as this valley's getting. You know, everybody needs a job nowadays," he said.