The New Boston steel mill shutdown

G. Sam Piatt

It was 1980 when a group of local anglers found themselves with more time to go fishing.

A headline across the top of Page 1 of the Jan. 30 edition of The Daily Times told why. It declared:

“Mill Loss Would Cut 1,224 Jobs.”

Later that year, the Empire Detroit Steel plant in New Boston shut down its blast furnace and open-hearth furnaces. They would never run again.

The coke plant, under new ownership, would continue to operate for a few more years before it, too, shut down for good.

Free time for fishing, but no money to go. Gasoline was a dollar and one cent per gallon. Best to spend that money on job-hunting.

There were still monthly payments to be met on some bass boats.

Charles R. Schmitt, vice president and general manager of the mill, said imports contributed greatly to its problems with turning a profit.

“The government’s inability to control the level of pig iron imports, plus a decline in pig iron usage by the foundry industry, has hurt operations here,” Schmitt said. “The federal government has not been sympathetic to the domestic pig iron producers and their problems with imports.”

He said import sales accounted for 42 percent of the total sales of pig iron in the United States during 1979.

Pollution control equipment also cut into profits. It cost $8 million to install water treatment devices at the plant and $2 million to operate them in 1979.

The plant’s payroll in 1979 was about $27 million, with another $11 million paid out in employee fringe benefits.

The loss to county, city and village income included $760,000 in employee income taxes and about $1.2 million in real and personal property taxes.

The closing cost the village of New Boston 16 percent of its total operating budget, or about $153,000.

And New Boston schools lost 30 percent of its annual operating budget, or about $312,000.

The equipment was sold for scrap and the land sold for development. It now holds a strip mall, a Wal Mart Super Store and three restaurants.

Ah, but wouldn’t it be nice now to see steel workers lined up at the pay window to pick up those bimonthly paychecks.

Or hooking up their boats and pulling out for a paid vacation to a distant lake.

Those living upwind from the mill would probably complain much less now while sweeping soot off their front porches.

Thirty-eight years later the area still has not recovered from losing its largest employer.


Speaking of fishing, anglers who brave the cold weather are loading up on scrappy schools of 2- to 3-pound sauger. The spotted cousins of the walleye are schooling up at the mouths of Ohio River feeder streams before heading upstream on their spawning runs.

Crayton Stevens and Bill Vansickle have limited out several times during December and now into January on these good-eating fish.

Recently they included my fishing buddy, Aaron Brown, in on the action.

Kentucky allows a limit of six sauger a day, or a combined total of six for sauger, walleye and their hybrid, the saugeye. There’s a 15-inch size limit on walleye and hybrids, but no size limit on the sauger.

Ohio’s limit is the same, except there is no size limit on any of the tree species.

A leadhead jig adorned with a curly-tailed grub bounced around on or near the bottom is the ticket for success. A live minnow on the jig works even better, especially if the strikes are slow in coming.

G. Sam Piatt

Reach G. Sam Piatt at or 606-932-3619.

Reach G. Sam Piatt at or 606-932-3619.