Expansions Begin New Chapters for Ellwood Group, Steelite

NEW CASTLE, Pa. – The site Ellwood Quality Steels has chosen for its $60 million new mill has a long history.

First developed in 1850, it started as an iron forge owned Alexander Crawford, the grandfather of industrialist Alex Crawford Hoyt, whose home is now part of the Hoyt Art Center. Then it became a tin-working site and, eventually, a steel mill. During New Castle’s heyday, industry titan Andrew Carnegie purchased the mill at the site. Ellwood Group Inc., the parent company of Ellwood Quality Steels, purchased the site bordered by Marovia Street and the Shenango River a couple of years ago.

And Friday, the site’s newest chapter got underway with the groundbreaking for a 110,000-square-foot building housing equipment for remelting steel that will be used in the aerospace and military fields.

“We have a modern steel mill here, but our product mix is changing,” said Ellwood Group President David Barensfeld. “As we respond to competition from countries like China, we have to upgrade and change our product into more technical and complicated mixes, like parts for aircraft. We have to make cleaner, more precisely alloyed steels than we did before.”

The building will house equipment for two methods of purifying steel – vacuum arc remelting and electroslag remelting – that Ellwood has in the past done through third parties, noted Ellwood Quality Steels President Mike Morgus.

“[For vacuum arc remelting] if you melt the scrap and solidify it, to further purify it, you melt it again under a vacuum in a special furnace that melts it a drop at a time. It’s a very controlled environment,” he explained.

Electroslag remelting uses an electric current passed through an electrode made of alloy steel to a layer of slag. As the electrode heats up from the current, it melts the slag, causing droplets of metal from the electrode to fall away. These droplets then pass through the slag and a water-cooled plate, where they resolidify into an ingot.

The result of both processes is steel that is suited for use in industries that require parts to take more wear and tear.

“The stress and force on landing gear is much higher than the bracket holding a computer to a wall,” Morgus said. “To be able to be designed lightweight and reliable, these additional processing steps are necessary to make sure they have the final properties engineers are looking for.”

Ellwood Group wasn’t the only company in New Castle starting a new chapter in its history Friday. About 10 minutes north, just off Interstate 376, tableware company Steelite International broke ground on a 52,000-square-foot warehouse to expand its distribution center in Millennium Technology Park, where it operates two other buildings.

The $8 million project has been in the cards for about 18 months, Steelite owner John Miles said, and will include office space, a warehouse and some light manufacturing space. Earlier this year, he announced the company would bring a showroom to the Commerce Building in downtown Youngstown.

“This is really the operation center,” he said. “What’s in downtown Youngstown is a showroom and training center. It’s what will be the driver, the promoter of the business. … It’s more of a customer service and specification center.”

Steelite International John MilesSteelite owner and CEO John Miles 

At its peak, the current warehouse ships up to 1.3 million individual items ranging from spoons and bowls to glasses and teacups per day. Steelite’s tableware is in roughly 30,000 restaurants and hotels in the U.S., including Panera Bread – it’s largest customer – and Michelin-starred restaurants.

“If it’s in a restaurant in New York or San Francisco or anywhere else, it’s likely our products you’re eating off of,” the owner and CEO said.

In January, Steelite launched a new line of tableware with interior design firm Tony Chi, which focuses primarily on the hospitality industry. The line is aimed “at three-star restaurants and up.

“When you think you New Castle, you’re not thinking of this at all,” Miles said. “We think it’ll be very successful.”

The two projects are just the latest in a line of developments in the Shenango Valley, a list that includes power plants, an ethane cracker plant and a water treatment center.

“We have over a billion dollars in projects on the table,” said Alex McCoy, CEO of the Lawrence County Regional Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a great testament to the business climate here in Lawrence County when businesses that are here choose to expand here. Ellwood Group has operations in other states like Texas and they chose to do it right here in Lawrence County.”

What stands out about these two projects is that they’re led by New Castle natives. Ellwood Group has been in Lawrence County since its founding in 1910 and is now in its fourth generation of Barensfeld family leadership. John Miles, meanwhile, comes from a family who worked at Shenango China. He followed in their footsteps and worked at Woodmere China and Homer Laughlin China Co.

Now that both Miles and Barensfeld are in a position to build in New Castle, they’re taking it, both said.

“Hopefully it gives a lot of faith to everyone in the county and greater area that businesses are reinvesting,” Miles said. “Ellwood Quality Steel is a gigantic investment on the family’s part and I think it will be very meaningful to this community for a long, long time, as will this.

Added Barensfeld, “I’m not surprised that there’s all this investment in New Castle and I’m surprised there hasn’t been more than there is.”

For state Rep. Chirs Saintano, these groundbreakings are nothing new. He was on hand for Ellwood Quality Steel’s initial groundbreaking after its formation in 1988, as well as Steelite’s groundbreaking here 11 years ago.

“When we get people like Mr. Miles and Mr. Barensfeld, good things can happen,” said Saintano, D-9 New Castle. “These are the types of things we like to see in the community. … We want to send a message to the community that things are turning around here. With the cracker plant coming in in Beaver County, we want people to know that Lawrence County is open for business.”

Pictured: Ellwood Quality Steels President Mike Morgus (center) and Ellwood Group Inc. President David Barensfeld (speaking) were joined by employees and state and local officials for the groundbreaking of a 110,000-square-foot building Friday.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.