Monday, February 05, 2001

Steel aid proposal due today

Report: Taft plans $110M aid package

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Ohio Gov. Bob Taft reportedly intends to introduce a $110 million aid package today to assist ailing steel companies in the state, but its impact on Greater Cincinnati industry is unclear.

        Ohio Senate President Richard Finan said Sunday he is unaware of the proposed aid.

        Meanwhile, an official at AK Steel, southwest Ohio's biggest steel manufacturer, said Sunday he doesn't think the state should be bailing out troubled steel firms.

        Mr. Finan and Mr. Taft met with representatives of the Ohio Steel Council on Friday, on the heels of bankruptcy-protection filings by three steelmakers in eastern Ohio since November.

        If such an agreement was struck, the impact for Middletown-based AK Steel could be a negative one, company spokesman Alan McCoy said.

        “My fear would be a negative impact if state funds are utilized to prop up inefficient firms (that compete with AK Steel),” Mr. McCoy said. “We're going to be watching closely.”

        AK Steel had representatives at Friday's meeting with the governor, Mr. Finan and Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder in Cleve land.

        Citing a source close to the governor, the Plain Dealer of Cleveland reported the aid would involve loans, grants
and other assistance for steelmakers to help them train workers, and to finance pollution-control equipment and mill upgrades.

        Ohio is one of the biggest steel-producing states; one report estimated the industry's effect on the state economy at $8.7 billion a year.

        The announcement is to be made at a news conference at the Cleveland Regional Development Office.

        Mr. Finan said that while political leaders in Columbus listened to labor's and management's concerns, “I don't know of any aid package that the governor might have, and I haven't talked to him since.”

        Mr. Finan added that because of its profitability, AK Steel “doesn't need our help.”

        That should be to AK Steel's credit, not detriment, Mr. McCoy said.

        Foreign competition, decreases in demand and rising energy prices led to bankruptcy-protection filings at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp., LTV Corp. and CSC Ltd.

       The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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