Province lends steel maker $7 million for plant upgrades

The government of Ontario is investing in the province’s steel industry by lending Ivaco Rolling Mills $7 million to help it update its facility, according to a statement from the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment. The money will be used to increase capacity and produce higher quality steel products, which are used in the automotive and manufacturing industries, as well as the energy sector. The new technology will also make the plant more energy efficient and help it reduce particulate emissions.

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The total value of the modernization project will be $80 million, the statement says. The steel industry employees approximately 17,000 workers in Ontario. Ivaco, with 425 employees, has the capacity to produce 850,000 tons of wire rod and 450,000 tons of steel billet (ingots) annually.

“The investment we’re announcing today will help Ivaco improve its competitiveness while increasing environmental protection,” said Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment.” Support for manufacturing is part of the Ontario government’s strategy to create jobs and grow the economy for a more prosperous and fair Ontario.”

Despite the optimistic words, the steel industry has faced challenges in recent years, and its future is by no means certain. All steelmakers in Canada are foreign owned now, including Ivaco, which is part of the Heico Companies, based in Chicago. Another major Ontario steel company, Stelco, in Hamilton, employs 2,000 workers today, but its American owners, US Steel, are committed to keeping the plant going only until the end of 2015. The company has been losing money, and there are fears that it could walk away from the Hamilton plant at that time.

Industry analysts point to a global overcapacity of steel production as the cause of the Canadian industry’s troubles. In total, Canadian steel producers manufactured 16.5 million tons of steel in 2012, according to a Troy Media report. The Canadian industry, unlike its foreign competitors, is not subsidized, according to the head of the Canadian Steel Producers Association Ron Watkins, a fact that makes it difficult to compete.

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