Republic Steel lays off 200 as Lorain facility temporarily idles

Published: Jan. 7, 2016 at 7:24 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 8, 2016 at 3:14 AM EST
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LORAIN, OH (WOIO) - On Thursday, Republic Steel announced it is temporarily idling the rolling mill operations at its Lorain facility, which will result in approximately 200 layoffs.

Officials say about 900 employees will continue to be employed at the company's other locations in Canton, Massillon, Solon, along with Lackawanna, NY, and Hamilton, Ontario.

According to officials, the Lorain plant has continued to struggle over the past year with a decline in the energy market and customer demand. With a negative 2016 economic forecast and continued dumping of steel imports, company officials say there was no other option but to idle the Lorain plant.

"We hope that we can resume the Lorain operations in the near future," said President and CEO Jaime Vigil. "We are positioned for growth and will be ready to provide capacity once the market turns around."

These layoffs are likely to have a ripple effect in Lorain, hurting not just steel workers and their families, but a community trying to pick itself back up.

The steel mills stretch for miles on the south side of Lorain, where the city and it's hard-working people have seen better days.

"Downhill, downhill. Ghost town. I came in '55 from my homeland. This is nothing. Unpredictable," said former steelworker Julio Cruz.

Cruz remembers bumper-to-bumper traffic outside of the steel mills and thousands of workers headed in and out of work.

His family moved to Lorain from Puerto Rico to be a part of the boom. They weren't alone.

"We came here, nobody knew English. Slovaks, Hungarians, Czechs, everybody say 'hi, good morning,'" Cruz said.

Across from Republic Steel, Mo Khkhdour at Key Foods may not see as many familiar faces stopping by.

"Daily usually I get 50 to 60 truck drivers just getting food. And then out of nowhere it started dropping down, I had a feeling something was going on," he said.

The pain of the layoffs could stretch to downtown where empty storefronts dot the road alongside businesses and restaurants.

Lorain has had its share of layoffs before and 2016 is starting off with another bump in the road.

"The thing is, there's competition across the ocean and they make the steel half the cost of what they can make it for," Khkhdour said.

But residents and workers of Lorain keep pushing forward, hoping better days are around the corner.

"It's sad, real sad. You see it in people's faces," Cruz said.

"Hopefully by summer things will change. You never know," Khkhdour said.

We're still waiting on reaction from the union.

City officials say the mayor of Lorain may release a statement on Friday.

"I pray for everybody over the past year that has been laid off and hope that all sides are able to work together to bring jobs back to the city of Lorain. The steel mills have been a great provider for jobs for our community for decades and I pray that the economy will turn around and everybody that has lost a job get their jobs back in the future," said 6th Ward Councilman Angel Arroyo Jr.

The layoffs will be staggered over the next few months officials say, with the majority being completed by the end of the first quarter.

The United Steelworkers Local 1104, which represents the hourly employees, was notified about the plans to idle the plant.

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