Fort Wayne’s Steel Dynamics Builds Strong Foundation in Pittsboro

Here’s an encouraging piece from the Indianapolis Star about how Steel Dynamics is turning a near-bankrupt steel mill in Hendricks County into a thriving source of production and jobs. Through heavy investment, the company ultimately hopes to enhance its production by over 50% and produce nearly one million tons of steel annually at the plant.

Designed and built in the late 1990s by Qualitech Steel Corp., the mill barely had come online, melting test batches of high-quality bar steel intended for automotive and appliance manufacturing, when the world steel market was flooded by cheap Chinese exports and the price of steel fell through the floor. Nearly a dozen "mini-mills" like Pittsboro’s were left in bankruptcy court.

Indiana’s investment of $40 million in incentives and Hendricks County’s $20 million bond issue were at risk if the mill didn’t reopen.

After a legally disputed auction, the Steel Dynamics offer of $45 million won the court-run bidding against North Carolina’s Nucor in 2002.

Steel Dynamics also invested nearly $100 million to redesign, remodel and reequip the plant to reopen in 2004. The trends have been up ever since.

Employment at the mill has increased steadily over the years from 400 to 500 workers. Steel Dynamics has not announced whether new jobs will be created in the next two years.

It will expand the facilities and add a second line for rolling out long bars of high-quality steel, the type suitable for machining into parts of cars, engines and other manufacturing. Companies such as Caterpillar are among the steelmaker’s bigger customers.

The mill occasionally has turned out other types and qualities of steel, including rebar used as concrete reinforcement in the $1 billion terminal building and other improvements opened in 2008 at Indianapolis International Airport.

Steel Dynamics said that with the latest addition, its engineered bar products division will be among the largest making specialty-bar-quality steel in North America.

It also will expand the mill’s bar-finishing capability, potentially doubling the amount of finished products that can be inspected.

The current production line rolls out long steel bars in diameters from 1 inch to 9 inches. The new line will focus on 1- to 3-inch-diameter bars favored for use in transportation, energy and automotive applications.