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Area representatives invite commerce secretary to Lorain

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LORAIN — President Donald Trump may not have accepted her invitation to visit Lorain to talk about the steel industry, but U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur is hoping that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will.

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Marcy Kaptur

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Kaptur, D-Toledo, joined U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, and Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, in sending a letter Monday to Ross urging him to come to Lorain to get a sense of what’s happening with the beleaguered industry.

“This community has been hit hard by the downturn in the steel sector and would benefit from hearing you discuss the administration’s plan to help defend U.S. steel companies from unfair trade practices that have caused numerous facilities to idle and thousands of workers to be laid off across the country,” the letter said.

A joint news release said that Ross had committed to a visit during separate meetings with Brown and Kaptur last week, but no date or firm plans are set.

“I just hope it’s sooner rather than later,” Kaptur said, adding that the ideal visit would involve both Trump and Ross.

Kaptur sent Trump a letter earlier this month urging him to visit Lorain in the wake of U.S. Steel’s announcement that it would permanently close the section of the plant known as the No. 6 Quench and Temper Mill, where small pipes are made, by June. That portion of the mill has been idled since 2015.

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Sherrod Brown

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The letter from Brown, Kaptur and Portman said more than 1,000 steelworkers have been laid off in Lorain at both U.S. and Republic Steel since 2015.

“Between January 2015 and December 2016, more than 14,000 U.S. steelworkers have lost their jobs,” the letter said.

Kaptur said she’s talked to the steelworkers and they need help.

“They’re just so distraught and they have every reason to feel let down, but we have to do what we can to fight, and the administration absolutely has to help,” she said.

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Rob Portman

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Kaptur said she understands that there are larger market forces at work that have led to the steel industry’s woes, such as the decline in oil and natural gas drilling that made use of the steel pipes made in Lorain factories. But she said when the oil and natural gas industries rebound, much of their work will be done around Ohio, and that means Lorain steel pipes would be close at hand if the mills continued to operate.

But she also said the dumping of steel from China, Russia and elsewhere is making it hard for U.S. steel companies and workers to compete.

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Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross

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“If unfair trade practices by China and other trading partners are left unaddressed, more steelworkers will be laid off and more steel mills will be closed,” Brown, Kaptur and Portman wrote in the letter.

Kaptur said Trump, who campaigned on helping steelworkers, has the authority to takes steps to address the problems of Chinese steel dumping and currency manipulation, and she hopes he will.

Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer, a Democrat, said he’d be happy for any help for Lorain and its ailing steel industry.

“I welcome anybody who wants to take a ground-level look,” he said.

Lorain isn’t the only community in Lorain County seeking help from officials in Washington.

Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda said Monday that she has continued to talk with the White House’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs in her effort to save jobs that would be lost if 3M follows through on closing its Lowell Street facility.

Brinda said she’s aware that there are ongoing discussions but couldn’t discuss what she knows about those talks because of a nondisclosure agreement she signed.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.



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