Trump administration officials tour New Castle plant
Hunks of steel weighing 190,000 pounds each are heated until they glow at 2300 degrees, and then slowly pounded into the rough shape of a propulsion shaft for a Navy submarine at a New Castle forge.
The smell of the super-hot metal wafts through the massive plant of North American Forgemasters in New Castle. Presidential adviser Pete Navarro and Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer toured the facility Thursday to tout the Trump administration policies they say have contributed to success stories like the one being forged in the region.
“This is awe-inspiring,” Navarro, the director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy said. “It’s a pretty amazing feat to have that much tonnage come in on a rail car, heat it up and with extreme precision be able to create a propeller for a Virginia class submarine that’s going to be able to last 50 years.”
North American Forgemasters is a joint venture of New Castle-based ELLWOOD, a privately held company based in Ellwood City that operates plants in New Castle and Scot Forge, based in Springfield, Ill.
The plant was awarded its first contracts to produce the massive, 72-feet-long shafts in October 2015 and went into production in February 2016, according to NAF President Mike Kaminikar.
The company has about half the market for such shafts, with the others produced by another Western Pennsylvania company, Erie Force and Steel, a division of WHEMCO, an international company with multiple operations in the region.
Navarro and Spencer wanted more than the brief tour they received, and they got a private look about how the steel ingots are melted in an adjacent facility.
The process is spellbinding. pic.twitter.com/wKr0MqlCBC
— Tom Davidson (@TribDavidson) October 10, 2019
“They are building high quality products with American labor that fill our need, that fill our requirements,” Spencer said.
Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Butler, encouraged Navarro and Spencer to make the trip, according to a press release.
NAF executives declined to take a position about whether U.S. tariffs, and the trade war with China that’s ensued, have helped or hurt the company.
David Barensfeld, chairman of the board of ELLWOOD, said the company has lost millions of dollars since the tariffs started in March 2018, when a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum were enacted.
ELLWOOD employs 2,100 people at 12 plants. About 500 people work at NAF and the other steel producers in the complex in New Castle, Berensfeld said.
Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .