Reviving Youngstown



By John Richardson

200px-Youngstown_Sheet&Tube_Abandoned.jpgTHE blog turned 50 last week and so spare it some indulgence, as it is in a somewhat reflective mood.

Yesterday, it attended a Bruce Springsteen concert in Melbourne, Australia – the great song writer/social commentator in the fine tradition of Woody Guthrie etc. His iconic song, Youngstown – about the “former” steel town in Ohio – was part of Springsteen and the E-Street Band’s fantastic set.

The great news is that “former” no longer entirely applies to the Youngstown steel industry, as The Economist pointed out in this article.

“In Youngstown, Ohio, a French firm, Vallourec, has spent $650m building an entirely new mill to make similar pipes,” wrote the magazine.

“It began production in October, with a staff of 350. Thirty miles in the opposite direction, in Brackenridge, Pennsylvania, Allegheny Technologies is spending $1.1 billion on a new mill to produce stainless steel and other specialty metals. US Steel opened a new $100m mill in Ohio in 2011, also to supply the oil and gas industry. Timken, another steelmaker, is spending $200m on its mill in Canton, Ohio.

“The main reason for this flurry of investment lies a few thousand feet below the ground: the Marcellus shale, a geological formation containing huge reserves of natural gas trapped in tiny pores in the rock.”

We hope that concerns over poor shale-gas economics, and therefore much-more limited supply than the consensus view claims, are totally unfounded. The American people do not deserve to once again fall victim to another example of financial-sector snake oil.

We equally hope that the necessary investment takes place in infrastructure, in R&D and in education essential to make the US manufacturing renaissance real for the unemployed, as Boston Consulting Group has pointed out. 

Manufacturing investment needs to also be tailored to meet the needs of America’s ageing population.

As Springsteen has said, if your job is taken away, “this removes an essential part of you”.

Making more plastic pellets and steel girders in the US is about more than just dollars and cents.

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