BY RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY
PDT Staff Writer
As the U.S. economy sinks and the automotive industry speeds toward finaicial hardships, a steel industry analyst was quoted in The Columbus Dispatch on Saturday saying a Russian steel plant proposed for Scioto County now seems uncertain.
Scioto County officials and Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works (MMK) announced plans in last year to build a $1 billion steel mill in the Haverhill area. MMK said it was considering either Ohio or Quebec as possible sites for the plant, which would create 500 new jobs.
Earlier this year, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency awarded New Steel International (the U.S. arm of MMK) air and water permits to build in Haverhill, after two public meetings in Franklin Furnace. The EPA further helped the company by giving it the go-ahead to purchase Particulate Emission Offsets from the former New Boston Coke plant.
Last weekend, however, Michael Willemse -- a steel analyst for CIBC World Markets, in Toronto -- told the Dispatch factors have changed since then. The article cites the drop in steel prices and global steel production, as well as the worldwide credit crunch.
"There's just a lot more global economic uncertainty now than there was last year," Willemse told The Dispatch.
Scioto County Economic Development Director Steve Carter did not return calls to comment on Sunday, but has maintained all along that he is cautiously optimistic.
"We have heard nothing negative from them," Scioto County Commissioner Tom Reiser also told The Times last month. "The financial situation has probably slowed it down some, but in our conversations we don't have any reason to believe that it is stopping the planning."
The Dispatch further reports that Gov. Ted Strickland has written a letter to MMK expressing his continued support for the Scioto County plant. A spokesperson from Strickland's office was unavailable on Sunday, and did not return requests from The Times to obtain a copy of Strickland's letter to MMK.