Notes on the state of things

Notes on the state of things

U.S. Steel says it has begun the site-selection process for a $3 billion “state-of-the-art mini-mill.”

A company news release says the facility will be built in the United States and “will combine two state-of-the-art electric arc furnaces with differentiated steelmaking and finishing technology, including purchased equipment already owned by the company.”

Observers say it’s unlikely that U.S. Steel will locate the facility in Pittsburgh’s Mon Valley after the recent scuttling of a $1 billion facilities upgrade there.

A slow but steady conversion to electric arc steel production is part of the steel company’s newly stated goal of environmental friendliness – a “sustainable future,” as U.S. Steel puts it.

The steelmaker, currently the second-largest producer of steel and steel products in the United States, says the price tag “is currently expected to be funded primarily from existing cash and expected free cash flow.”

“Final site selection and other construction terms are subject to a number of factors, including state and local support (emphasis added) and final approval by the U. S. Steel Board of Directors,” the news release noted.

Now, if that means receiving required environmental and operating permits, that’s one thing. But if it means taxpayer support, in the form of subsidies, that’s quite another. And it should be a non-starter.

If it’s a “sustainable future” that U.S. Steel truly seeks, taxpayer subsidies should not be part of its sustenance.

The Pennsylvania Capital-Star, citing data from the Pew Charitable Trusts, says that while private-sector jobs have been rebounding from closings related to the coronavirus pandemic, “noneducation employment growth in state and local governments across the country have all but dried up.”

“Noneducation state and local jobs, including jobs at city and municipal buildings, police forces and correctional facilities have all declined by more than 400,000 since the pandemic began, according to the U.S. Department of Labor & Industry,” the Cap-Star notes.

The decline in Pennsylvania stands at 6.2 percent. Pew says private employment has risen by 3.4 percent in the same period.

Now, clearly, we understand that if local and state jurisdictions are having a difficult time staffing truly needed public safety positions, there’s cause for concern.

That said, however, the statistics should serve as an opportunity to re-evaluate if all of these “lost” local and state jobs really are needed.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).