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Commissioners plan to back AK

By Jessica Brown, Butler County Bureau

HAMILTON — Butler County commissioners Thursday threw their support behind the financially troubled AK Steel Corp.

The company is grappling with many challenges that could force AK to close its steelmaking operations in Middletown — and possibly endanger an estimated 1,000 jobs — officials have said.

Among the problems are the costs of complying with new federal air pollution-control rules and dealing with a federal and state lawsuit.

About 4,000 people are employed at Middletown Works and AK’s corporate offices on Curtis Street.

Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Thursday that will put their support in writing. They plan to send a letter to AK Steel and Ohio Gov. Bob Taft.

“If these jobs are really at risk, this is a crisis. This presents a major blow to our economy,” said Commission President Michael Fox.

Commissioner Courtney Combs said he would support a generic resolution that would open a dialogue between the county and the company.

“It is very appropriate we contact them offering our support and see how they want to proceed,” he said.

In the past, the state has given grant packages, tax-exempt financing and tax credits to troubled Ohio steel companies, but Middletown officials have said they have been unsuccessfully attempting to contact the state for years to get some relief.

Thursday, Fox suggested implementing “environmental strategies” and proposed using money currently being spent on E-Checks to help AK Steel.

“If you’re going to clean up the air it would make sense to direct the money spent on E-Check to the employer,” he said.

He said there were a number of ideas that could be considered to benefit the company.

He said retaining viable businesses and employees in Butler County is a priority.

“Whatever is required to preserve these jobs, it’s up to us as a county to do. That could very well be the beginning of the end,” he said.

Published 06.06.03



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