Liberty Steel Products Unveils Processing Line

NORTH JACKSON, Ohio – Over the past half-century, Liberty Steel Products Inc. has found ways to persevere through some of the most difficult economic times in the history of the Mahoning Valley.

While the company has enjoyed the good times, it also managed to survive several downturns and the retrenchment of the steel industry in the late 1970s and early 1980s. At the same time, it’s prepared for the future with new investments and an eye to whatever comes.

On Wednesday, the company reflected on those five decades and showed off the new $5 million processing line just installed during a ribbon cutting at its main plant, 11650 Mahoning Ave.

“This line is going to allow us to cut to length laser-quality material,” said Jack Weller, chairman of Liberty Steel. “We’ve put several millions of dollars into this line so we can get into that market.”

The new line is a Synergy Leveling System that was designed, fabricated and built by Salem-based Butech Bliss Inc. The line will enhance the company’s blanking and slitting capabilities, added Matt Frisby, vice president of operations. “It’ll allow us to make products that we couldn’t make before,” he said.

The system enables the company to process steel up to 3/8 of an inch-thick and up to five cuts across a 60-inch-wide master coil, Frisby said. “With the new Synergy Leveling System, we’ll also get laser-quality flatness,” he said. “This is all designed to work as one system.”

Jock Buta, executive vice president at Butech Bliss, said the new equipment uses a close-tolerance synergy leveler capable of flattening the steel and smoothing out defects of any shape in the material. The entire design-to-production process took roughly eight to 10 months, he reported.

“It’s been a good solid four-plus weeks just installing it,” Buta said. “We’ll have startup coming over the next couple of weeks. It’s in our shop for about eight months before it gets shipped here.”

This addition is the fourth processing line at the plant here and the market looks promising for the upcoming year, says Liberty Steel Products President and CEO Jim Grasso.

“We’re busy. The steel market is kind of beat up a little bit,” he elaborated, “but our customers are still pretty busy. We’re in the process of negotiating contracts for next year and things are looking pretty good.”

The plant processes steel coil for customers in the durable goods and the pressure-vessel markets, Grasso says. Much of the steel the company treats is found in consumer products such as lawn and garden tools.

Weller, Liberty Steel Products chairman, allowed that it hasn’t been easy over the past 50 years, but noted the company has successfully adapted to changing markets.

“We’ve had to go out further than we’ve wanted to do at times,” he acknowledged, as the opportunity dwindled for new business in the region. “We’ve tried to keep our costs down and were able to compete even though we had to go out a couple more hundred miles to try to find more business. We’ve been able to weather the storm.”

Today, Liberty Steel Products ships its steel as far west as Texas, while the end-user products are sold all over North America.

“It’s been a quick 50 years,” reflected Weller, whose family established the company in 1965. “We’ve got a good company with great employees and now we’ve turned the reins over to the next generation. It’s up to them to keep things growing.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.