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U.S. Steel returning to McKeesport

| Saturday, April 9, 2011

United States Steel Corp. is returning to McKeesport's National Works site.

“USS Tubular Products will be assuming operation of the facility effective May 1,” U.S. Steel spokeswoman Erin DiPietro said Friday.

Meanwhile, workers completed removal of a Camp-Hill sign that adorned a former National Works electric resistance weld mill.

“We are working through the transaction with (Camp-Hill Local 5852) and the company,” said Tom Conway, USW international vice president and chairman of the union committee that negotiates with U.S. Steel.

Approximately 150 work there, including management and rank-and-file employees, according to city tax records.

“Any move by U.S. Steel reinvesting in this valley is very exciting news,” said Maury Burgwin, CEO of the McKeesport-based Regional Chamber Alliance, the coalition of chambers of commerce whose offices are on the other side of the tracks from Camp-Hill in McKeesport's old city hall.

“That is excellent news for our city and equally good news for our region,” McKeesport city administrator Dennis Pittman said.

Pittman and other city officials would have been contacted under federal law if Camp-Hill was closing.

Instead, Pittman said, “U.S. Steel is going to reinvest here in the Monongahela Valley and specifically here in McKeesport.”

Camp-Hill is the last vestige of a complex that began with the National Tube Works in 1872. What became U.S. Steel's National Works operated until 1987.

The beginning of the end was a work stoppage from Aug. 1, 1986, until Feb. 2, 1987. U.S. Steel called it a strike; the USW called it a lockout.

Three days after the dispute ended, U.S. Steel announced the indefinite closing of four Pittsburgh area mills. On April 24, 1987, it announced the permanent closing of the National and Homestead District works.

By December of that year Camp-Hill Corp. was making plans for the ERW mill.

In 2007 Camp-Hill president Ross Hillegass said the mill made “piling pipe ... for structural purposes, for foundations where there is unsuitable ground.”

In 2008, a U.S. Steel spokesman said Camp-Hill was bringing in a flat, rolled steel called skelp from the Irvin Plant in West Mifflin, which makes up the U.S. Steel Mon Valley Works with the Edgar Thomson Plant in Braddock and the Clairton cokemaking plant.

Regional Industrial Development Corp. of Southwestern Pennsylvania purchased 135 acres of the National Works site in 1988.

It since has been home for such firms as Healthcare Waste Solutions, Bulk Conveyor Specialist Inc., Maglev Inc., EchoStar and Huckestein Mechanical Systems.

EchoStar, later known as Dish Network, operated a leased call center on the RIDC site from 1999-2010.

Huckestein sold its facility last year to EQT, parent company of Equitable Gas, which this week was given a green light by McKeesport council to purchase additional land from RIDC for storage and parking.

“I think the goal of the city always has been for what is now called (RIDC Riverplace) Industrial Center of McKeesport to have a diversified employment base,” Pittman said. “If we were going to go out and recruit a company I would always prefer to add a company that is value-added manufacturing.”

What started out as the National Tube Works first was a provider of pipe for Western Pennsylvania's oil industry. By 1890 it was a self-contained plant.

Burgwin speculated that the rising Marcellus shale drilling industry is a factor in a new demand for pipe.

“Like Marcellus or not, it is going to become a really big deal for Pennsylvania,” Burgwin said. “Can this create jobs• Can this create supply side industries?”

In Jefferson Hills Thursday, Gov. Tom Corbett focused briefly on Marcellus shale. He reiterated his opposition to any drilling tax.

His press office also said the number of gas drilling industries in Pennsylvania is up from 9,252 in 2008 to 17,938 last year.

Corbett aides also said the average wage for Marcellus shale jobs ($67,801 a year) and ancillary jobs ($64,823) is higher than that for all jobs in the state ($44,418).

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