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Algoma Steel emerges from creditor protection

New owners promising plant modernization, new hires
President and CEO Kalyan Ghosh announces the purchase of the local steel mill by Algoma Steel Inc. on Nov. 30, 2018. (James Hopkin/SooToday)

Algoma Steel has emerged from under three years of creditor protection with its new owners promising to invest CDN$300 million in modernization efforts and hire new workers at the Sault Ste. Marie plant.

In a Nov. 30 statement, the company said it is a “stronger, more sustainable Canadian steel company” under new ownership, with a professional board of directors and a “significantly improved balance sheet.”

“When we take a look around at the domestic and international steel markets, what we see is a lot of room for growth for Algoma Steel,” company CEO Kalyan Ghosh said in a Nov. 30 news release.

“We have a long and proud history in Canada, manufacturing 100 per cent of our products right here in Sault Ste. Marie. Today, Algoma Steel is an independent and strong niche player, manufacturing a comprehensive mix of hot and cold rolled steel sheet and plate products not just for the Canadian markets, but also beyond.”

The company said the $300-million investment would expand capacity and grade capability, making the plant more efficient and globally competitive.

“This investment will position Algoma Steel to meet the growing demand for advanced grades of steel and to support growth in related industries like shipbuilding, auto manufacturing, energy, mining and defence,” the statement said.

Algoma Steel additionally said the three pensions supporting retired workers are secure, and it praised the United Steelworkers Locals 2251 and 2724 as playing “a large role” in helping the plant's troubles come to a positive resolution.

The company also expressed gratitude to its suppliers and customers for their patience, and the support of the federal, provincial and municipal governments over the last three years.

Sault Mayor Christian Provenzano called the close of such a challenging time “good news for the company and our community.”

Though he praised the company and the community for their patience and the work involved in coming out of creditor protection, Provenzano cautioned against viewing this as a panacea to all of the Sault’s problems.

“Simply put, we cannot be complacent and we cannot depend on Algoma’s operation as singularly as we have historically,” he said in a letter to the community.

“We need to challenge ourselves and each other to build our community together, a community that is proudly home to a Canadian steelmaker as one of its many defining attributes.”

Provenzano called on residents to continue engaging in the community redevelopment plan that’s looking at diversifying the city’s assets beyond steelmaking.

FutureSSM was launched following a community readjustment exercise to advocate for, among other things, inclusivity, quality-of-life infrastructure, and social and cultural stimulation.

“We have a team of dedicated people focused on and working on our community’s future, and many community leaders, from post-secondary institutions to Sault Area Hospital to the school boards to our social service agencies, are collaborating and working together to maximize our opportunity for success,” Provenzano said.

“However, to truly be successful, we need you. We need you, as citizens who care about our community and who are invested in its future, to help us drive it forward.”

The steel plant, which currently employs 2,900 workers, has operated in Sault Ste. Marie since 1901. It entered its third round of creditor protection, under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) on Nov. 9, 2015.