Georgetown leaders, union at odds over future of steel mill property

Georgetown County reports more than 800 residents provided input to the panel in September regarding the steel mill and needs of the community. (Image Source: Georgetown County)

GEORGETOWN, SC (WBTW) – The Georgetown Steel Mill property is at the center of a development and jobs battle.

Three public forums were hosted over the course of a week, with each meeting drawing in hundreds of neighbors to ask questions, give their input and learn more about what could potentially happen to the steel mill.

Georgetown city leaders want to tear down the plant and redevelop the area, turning it into a mixed-use space with businesses and homes.  The local steel workers union, and many former employees, want to see the mill reopen.

President of the local steelworkers union James Sanderson says in the last two weeks the union has signed a new labor contract with a company interested in buying the steel mill and reopening the plant with union workers.

“We have a labor contract right now with the new company,” confirms Sanderson. That contract, however, doesn’t necessarily mean the steel mill is a sure bet. It’s simply a step in the process for any company wishing to purchase the land and operate a steel mill. The contract solidifies that 110 employees are willing and able to work if the steel mill were to open immediately.

Sanderson says he can’t reveal which company is interested in buying the steel mill at this time, but says he’s worked to set the stage for a potential buyer.

“We still have a labor agreement between ArcelorMittal and Georgetown, and one of those provisions is the successorship clause which means the company cannot sell this mill without the union agreeing to it,” explains Sanderson.

Sanderson says an announcement could come within two weeks and if the sale does go through, the plant would reopen with union workers as soon as two months following the sale.

“All we’re waiting on now is the finalizing of the contract so that the property can be transferred over to the new company,” says Sanderson. “We met with ArcelorMittal representatives on Friday and they said that was not between them and any prospective buyer, that there are numerous companies that are looking at purchasing the mill and that they are at various stages of negotiations.”

Georgetown Mayor Jack Scoville says the city has different plans for the property, and as long as the steelworkers union doesn’t have a signed purchase agreement in hand, the city will move forward with plans to rezone the area.

“Now if a company were to come forward and say, ‘We’re going to reopen the mill and we want city assistance’ and give us their plan, that would be subject to some reconsideration, but at this point, we just have Mr. Sanderson’s representation that there’s some agreement with some unknown company out there.”

Scoville says the city is committed to moving forward without the steel mill in operation.

“That ship has sailed.  ArcelorMittal came in four to five years ago and tried to make it profitable, but it’s just not there,” explains the mayor.

While Sanderson admits the plant won’t be around forever, he wants to keep it open as long as possible.

“I cannot predict or guarantee how long the steel mill will be up and running, but as long as there’s life, I think everyone should agree that we keep depending on the steel mill for the jobs that it provides and the benefits it gives this community,” argues Sanderson.

News13 reached out to ArcelorMittal for comment on the potential sale and future plans for the plant, but have yet to hear back. The future of the steel mill depends largely on ArcelorMittal’s decision on to which company they will sell the property.