RG Steel credits Maryland and labor with keeping it in business

700 workers set to return to plant

SPARROWS POINT, Md. - Christmas came a few days early with pink slips for more than 700 workers at the steel mill in Sparrow Point, and many of them come to Mickey's Bar on North Point Boulevard to drown their sorrows.

"I got guys that's been down there 35 years and they're laid off right now," said Tony Cahoon, a former employee of the once-proud Bethlehem Steel who hoped things would be different after a Russian company sold the mill last year, "It's pitiful.  It's a shame.  This RG Steel... I thought they were the answer to saving this company, but they're not."

On Friday, RG Steel broke its silence as CEO John Goodwin revealed just how close the company came to shutting down its furnace for good, if not for a last ditch appeal.

"We need help.  We need everything that the government and labor can bring to help save RG Steel," Goodwin says he told Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and the state's congressional delegation.

RG Steel purchased three steel mills in March for $750 million, and Goodwin says it couldn't have happened at a worst time.

The price of iron soared, while the price of steel plummeted.

For weeks, Maryland's top politicians and the United Steel Workers have tried to convince the banks that it was worth saving, and not their efforts have paid off.

"A line of credit has been secured to allow RG to fire up the furnace again and get our steel workers back to work at Sparrows Point," said O'Malley.

With the price of steel expected to climb this year, RG Steel says the investment may pay off with more hires, more business and more stability for the company in the years to come.

"It means over 2,000 jobs at Sparrows with another 10-to-12 thousand supporting jobs," said Goodwin, "They're going to be preserved."

The company wouldn't reveal how much money the bank has freed up for it, except to say it was "nine digits".

That's at least a  $100 million.

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