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U.S. Steel looks to expand Research & Technology Center in Munhall

| Thursday, July 31, 2014, 1:46 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
U.S. Steel's Research & Technology Center in Munhall hosted the May 19 'Save Our Steel Jobs' rally protesting the effect of pipe imports on such facilities such as U.S. Steel's McKeesport Tubular Operations plant, which may be idled indefinitely as soon as next week. On Wednesday U.S. Steel CEO Mario Longhi said there would be an increase of personnel and equipment at the Munhall center.

While U.S. Steel's Tubular Division idles its McKeesport operations, the Pittsburgh-based steelmaker is looking to hire additional personnel at its Research & Technology Center in Munhall.

“We are expanding the capability of our research and technology center in Pittsburgh adding new research equipment and personnel,” U.S. Steel CEO Mario Longhi told a conference call detailing his company's second quarter earnings.

The decision is part of what U.S. Steel has called its Carnegie Way of revamping operations. It's a corporate initiative which U.S. Steel previously said will yield $290 million in benefits this year.

“We are increasing our commitment to research and development to expand and accelerate our capability to provide and field products and solutions of the future,” Longhi said. “We are committed to innovation.”

Specifics of what's planned for Munhall were not available.

“We have approximately 100 employees there now,” U.S. Steel spokeswoman Sarah A. Cassella said. “We will not be commenting on additional employees beyond what Mr. Longhi referenced in the call.”

That number is down from the 130 transferred in 2006 to a 191,000-square-foot building once meant to be a Siemens Westinghouse fuel cell plant.

The workforce includes academic scientists and experts in other steel disciplines, working in process technology and product technology.

In December 2004, U.S. Steel announced an agreement with Continental Real Estate Inc. to purchase a structure built in 2002 but abandoned by Siemens in favor of an existing facility in Churchill.

At the time Munhall Mayor Raymond Bodnar, a former employee of the old Homestead District Works, hoped it would be the start of a “bigger and bigger” U.S. Steel presence in an area where that firm and its predecessors made steel for more than a century.

The building at 800 E. Waterfront Drive was overhauled during the next 12 months into a state-of-the-art facility, later certified as a green structure by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. U.S. Steel said it was built with a wide array of advanced safety features, cutting-edge technology and energy efficiencies.

U.S. Steel officials say the Munhall facility works closely with other research facilities in Troy, Mich., Houston, Texas, and Košice, Slovakia. In his conference call, Longhi talked at length about plans for further development of high-strength steels for the automotive industry at its Troy facility.

Meanwhile, U.S. Steel's Tubular Division continues its plan to idle indefinitely its McKeesport facility in the former Camp-Hill Corp. electric resistance weld plant, the last vestige of the old National Tube Works.

While a 60-day notice issued to McKeesport employees under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification or WARN Act would point to a shutdown as early as Saturday, Cassella said the company has not been able to confirm internally when the idling will take effect.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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