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Leading steel producer expands to Navasota

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Posted: Saturday, March 26, 2011 11:56 am | Updated: 8:52 pm, Sat Mar 26, 2011.

Over 100 years ago, Gerdau Ameristeel, the leading company in the production of long steel in both North and South America, and one of the major suppliers of specialty long steel in the world, began its expansion path in 14 countries, from Canada to Chile and India. This past fall, the company made its way to Navasota and is set to begin local production within the next few months.

Gerdau Ameristeel's products are generally sold to steel service centers, steel fabricators, or directly to original equipment manufacturers for use in a variety of industries, including non-residential, infrastructure, commercial, industrial and residential construction, metal building, manufacturing, automotive, mining, cellular and electrical transmission and equipment manufacturing.

As the second largest mini-mill steel producer in North America, with an annual manufacturing capacity of over 10 million metric tons of mill finished steel products, Gerdau also takes recycling seriously.

"With over 40 thousand employees, Gerdau has an installed capacity of over 25 million metric tons of steel. It is the largest recycler in Latin America, and, around the world, it transforms millions of metric tons of scrap into steel every year," said External Communications & Public Affairs Manager Kimberly M. Selph of Tampa, Fla.

Gerdau is currently ranked as the second largest recycler of ferrous scrap in North America, consuming over 7 million tons of scrap raw materials in its mini-mills annually.

"This method saves 75 percent of the energy that would be used to create steel from raw materials," she said.

Gerdau operates 17 recycling facilities that collect, sort and process approximately 2 million tons of scrap annually into its steel-making operations, according to Selph.

Locals inspired by Gerdau

The company began renovations for its expansion at an existing facility at Navasota's Industrial Park off FM 379 at 9930 Industrial Drive this past fall, and is in the last stages of hiring for 6 remaining production operator positions.

"After this round of interviews, we will have around 15 employees. Our goal is to eventually hire 30 people. We are currently interviewing for production operators," said Selph of Tampa, Fla.

Richard Ingram of Navasota said the company's move came just in time, as he recently made a major career change, from being a mechanic to becoming a machine operator.

"The automotive industry has gone down, so I tried to do something else," said Ingram. "And I got a job at Texas Steel Conversion, Inc. in Bryan."

Ingram and his wife Stephanie, who is employed as a teacher at John C. Webb Elementary in Navasota, moved to Navasota in November, in order to avoid commuting. Once Ingram heard about open positions at Gerdau, he jumped at the chance to apply, and was hired in January.

The 35-year-old said Gerdau is by far the best employer he's ever had.

"Everything they tell you is going to happen happens, and the benefits are excellent," said Ingram. "And the people we work with are real, down-to-earth people."

Benefits include medical, dental, 2 weeks vacation, life insurance, 401 K and incentive programs, all with no waiting period.

"At my last job, it took a minimum of 5 years to get 401 K," said Ingram.

Chris Warman of Anderson has been working as a production sheer operator for Gerdau for the past month, and agreed the benefits and positive work environment would be hard to beat.

"They're a great company, and are real good to their employees. My benefits started the day I started, and I already have 80 hours of vacation time," said Warman. "And they match you dollar for dollar on your 401 K."

She continued, "Even though I'm the only female there, everyone's been respectful. They told me from day one that I wouldn't have any problems, and I haven't. They're a great company."

Warman previously worked with metal designed for the oil industry. Warman said she has enjoyed learning a new trade, and is already impressed with Gerdau's safety and training practices.

"It's always challenging to start something new, but the way they had the training was excellent. They bring in people from other plants, and have trained us real well," said Warman.

Navasota chosen as prime location

Selph said Navasota was chosen as a prime location for expansion since "Texas has a strong economy relative to the rest of the nation, and Navasota offers a strong labor market, good tax base and we liked the proximity to Houston. With steel mills in Beaumont and Midlothian, and downstream facilities in the Dallas area and Carrollton, it will expand our geographic footprint in the state and allow us to better serve our customers."

The 50,000-square-foot facility will eventually have a capacity of 40,000 tons. The Navasota site's main goal will be to service the greater Houston construction market.

Community partnerships

As for the company's immediate plans to become an integral part of the local community, Selph said the company has a clearly defined social responsibility program featuring community support, health and wellness, education, history and culture, and affordable housing.

"Our strongest partnerships are with United Way, American Heart Association and Habitat for Humanity. Our employees are encouraged to volunteer their time to help with local projects, and the company aims to support them through donations when possible," said Selph.

Creative side

The creative side of the company was made visible during Super Bowl, as a monument created by Gerdau was visible in Fort Worth's Sundance Square.

"The inspiring 7-ton sculpture, known as "Cradle of Champions," was made entirely of repurposed steel, including steel scraps from high school football facilities across the state and the recently demolished stadium in North Texas. It depicts the state of Texas and lists nearly 2,000 names of former Texas high school football players who have successfully reached "The League." The structure will remain in North Texas and stand as a tribute to the widespread talent of Texas' young athletes," said Selph.



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