White House 'committed to the manufacturing agenda,' Commerce secretary says

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U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker toured U.S. Steel’s Irvin plant in West Mifflin Thursday with U.S. Steel President and CEO Mario Longhi and United Steelworkers Union President Leo Gerard, then exchanged ideas with local leaders about training skilled workers.

"What we want to develop in this country is training that leads to jobs,“ Ms. Pritzer told reporters after completing what she said was her first tour of a steel plant.

Ms. Pritzker opted not to sport the steel-toed boots that steelworkers are required to wear as Mr. Longhi, Mr. Gerard and plant manager Amy Smith-Yoder guided her on an inspection of the plant’s cold mill, where steel coils are rolled thinner, then sent on for further processing before becoming appliances, guard rails and other products.

Commerce secretary touts workforce development

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker was in Pittsburgh to tour U.S. Steel???s Irvin plant alongside company and union officials. (Video by Nate Guidry; 5/16/2014)

She followed in the wake of previous White House officials to tour U.S. Steel’s Mon Valley plants, including President Barack Obama in January.

Following the tour, Ms. Pritzker discussed workforce development at a luncheon hosted by U.S. Steel. The Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board, the Allegheny County Labor Council and Catalyst Connection were among the organizations invited.

During a news conference, Ms. Pritzker said the White House is “committed to the manufacturing agenda.“ She cited the administration’s proposal for manufacturing innovation institutes. Four pilot institutes, including one in Youngstown focusing on 3-D printing, are currently funded.

She also reaffirmed the White House’s opposition to unfairly traded steel imports. A report this week warned that nearly 600,000 U.S. jobs in the steel and related industries are threatened by a glut of imported steel from countries where many producers are either owned or subsidized by their governments.

U.S. Steel and other domestic producers filed a massive trade case in July against steelmakers in South Korea and eight other countries over tubular products used in the energy industry. They fear the United States will win energy independence at the expense of domestic steelmakers losing the booming oil and gas market to overseas producers.

A preliminary finding in the tubular goods case went against U.S. steel producers. They are lobbying the White House for support. Ms. Pritzker said 75 percent of the trade cases before the Commerce Department involve steel products.

In order to win, U.S. producers must prove they have been harmed by imports.

”We have to lose jobs in order to win a trade case,” Mr. Gerard told reporters, saying the current import crisis “could be worse than it was 10 years ago.”

That crisis caused a wave of bankruptcies and consolidations in the domestic steel industry.

Mr. Longhi told reporters Ms. Pritzker is putting her best talent to work to ensure there is a thorough investigation of the industry’s complaint.

Mr. Longhi, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and others are scheduled to speak at a rally Monday that will call attention to the import threat. The 11 a.m. event will take place at U.S. Steel’s Research and Technology Center in Munhall.

Len Boselovic: 412-263-1941 or lboselovic@post-gazette.com. First Published May 15, 2014 2:51 PM

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