Zekelman Industries to Invest $30M at Warren Wheatland Tube Plant

WARREN, Ohio – Zekelman Industries will invest $30 million at its Wheatland Tube Plant here for an automated storage and retrieval warehouse, CEO Barry Zekelman said Wednesday.

Zekelman announced the approximately 84,000-square-foot addition to the Dietz Road plant, which manufactures tube and pipe primarily for low-pressure fluid conveyance, during a visit by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan.

The expansion will increase the plant’s productivity, improve product handling and quality, and provide a higher level of safety for the plant’s approximately 150 workers, he said. The system will be able to tie into the company’s automated inventory management system and procure, prepare and stage materials for loading on outgoing trucks.

Construction of the addition will take about 18 months, he predicted.

“It’s really a transformational move,” Zekelman said. “It’s a move to move into the future and be able to keep up with the pace of doing business.”

The $30 million project is a continuation of the $500 million in investments that Zekelman Industries has made since the announcement of Section 232 tariffs, which have stemmed the import of pipe and tube imports into the United States.

Barry Zekelman, chairman and CEO of Zekelman Industries.

In 2020, total pipe and tube imports declined to 3.5 million tons from 8.8 million tons in 2017, he said. Imports of standard pipe, which Wheatland Tube produces, fell from 935,000 tons in 2017 to 510,000 tons last year.

“Since 232 came into effect, the U.S. domestic steel industry has announced over $15 billion of investment in the most environmentally friendly and efficient production capacity in the world,” he said. “We encourage the Biden administration to continue and strengthen these trade measures so our industry can invest and expand our job growth and expand our community support.”

Ryan, D-13 Ohio, said he would push the Biden administration to make sure the tariffs stay in place, as well as eliminate loopholes that foreign competitors use to circumvent them.

“You see the investment that comes back into the United States when you just level the playing field,” Ryan said. “If we level the playing field, we win.”

“On an equal playing field, nobody can beat these guys,” said Jose Arroyo, staff representative with Sub District 1 of United Steel Workers District 1.

“There are so many more opportunities for the pipe and tube industry, for the steel industry, today and as we move into the future,” Ryan added.

Zekelman talks with U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan during Wednesday’s tour.

As the world moves toward an energy strategy that expands the use of wind and solar power, “We want to make sure that those windmills and those solar panels are made with steel from the United Steel Workers in American steel companies,” he continued. “That’s the goal and we have an opportunity to do that, an opportunity like no other.”

The cleanest steelmaking in the world takes place in the United States, Zekelman said. The administration wants “clean and green energy,” but most of the infrastructure for solar panels, such as the arms that control them and the posts that go into the ground, comes from China.

Ryan noted that he was able to get language in the House of Representatives version of President Joe Biden’s proposed infrastructure bill, which includes green energy infrastructure spending, to ensure U.S. made goods like steel are used.

“Why wouldn’t we want to make steel here rather than push that production to India or China or other counties that don’t care as much abut the environment, don’t have the regulations, don’t have the worker safety protections?” Zekelman said. “We’re shipping all those jobs and buying that material from the world’s worst polluter to solve our green energy demand? That’s insane.”

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.