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Alton Steel Mill Reopens

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Workers unveiled the first 800-pound steel \"bloom\" produced at Alton. (KWMU photo)

By Matt Sepic, KWMU

Alton, Ill – Workers and managers unveiled the ceremonial first slab of steel Monday as the Alton Steel mill officially opened for business.

A group of local investors bought the bankrupt Laclede Steel facility, which closed two years ago and put more than 500 employees out of work.

One of those was Jim Sievers, who put in 26 years at Laclede.

"I'm definitely excited to be back," Sievers said. "I've looked for jobs for a couple of years, went to school, and even with education, it's still hard to find a job that pays a decent wage."

The new company produces bar steel, mainly for the auto industry, and employs 130 union workers.

Company president Mel Cook says the mill's product will fill an important market niche, despite a general downturn in the American steel industry.

"We feel that with a good employee base and a reasonable level of wages and benefits, we can be competitive, even with foreign countries," Cook said.

At its height, 4,000 people worked at the Laclede mill.

The new company has invested about $16 million in the facility's purchase and startup, and plans to spend $30 million over 20 years for environmental cleanup.

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