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Fate of Wheeling-based steel company still unknown

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The fate of a Wheeling-based steel company that helped with the construction of the Hoover Dam and the new World Trade Center is still unknown, but recent actions don't look promising.

In June, Wheeling Corrugating was forced to layoff 237 employees as a result of its parent company, RG Steel LLC, filing for bankruptcy. Esmark Steel Group put in a bid for the company around the same time, but company spokesman Bill Keegan said Thursday that Esmark is no longer interested in Wheeling Corrugating.

Instead, the company is pursuing a facility in Yorkville, Ohio and a partnership with TCC Steel Co. to jointly own Ohio Coatings Co., according to Keegan and American Metal Market.

"We really just saw a better opportunity and a better fit for our business," Keegan said.

Esmark's bid included all of the company's facilities except plants in Beech Bottom and Martins Ferry, Ohio, and a pledge to spend $1 million in physical improvements at the Wheeling facility.

Quay Mull, a Wheeling businessman, has purchased the Martins Ferry plant for $2 million, according to American Metal Market.

Other companies have also placed bids on the company, but it is still unclear what those bids mean for the future.

In the same negotiations that allowed Esmark to purchase the Ohio facilities, Nucor Corp. purchased Wheeling Corrugating assets for $7 million, reports Bloomberg Business Week. The North Carolina-based steel company purchased the equipment last week.

The company has not completely closed its doors, said Tim Becker, Wheeling Corrugating national accounts manager.  

"To the extent that we can, it's been business as usual here," Becker said Thursday in a phone interview.

Employees are aware of the layoffs and the company's uncertain future prospects, but Becker said there hasn't been any word from the company to employees officially saying Wheeling Corrugating will close.

He said there are other bidders involved, and he hopes they might be able to salvage the company as a whole.

"We're hoping for the best, whoever (purchases) us wants us to stay in business and intact," Becker said.

Employees expressed the same sentiment in a June letter sent to the judge presiding over the RG Steel bankruptcy proceedings. The letter recounts the company's 122 history and asks Judge Kevin Carey to not forget about the "small company."

"Please keep in mind that all of these challenges were not created by Wheeling Corrugating, but by the entities that owned us," the employees wrote. "We struggled, but we are strong."

There is a hearing set for Wednesday where the Esmark and Nucor deals could be finalized, and where other bids regarding Wheeling Corrugating assets could be announced, according to multiple media outlets.

Becker thought the company would learn its fate after the hearing.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.

 

 


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