Frank Burns

Frank Burns

After his tour on Friday of the U.S. Steel facility in Braddock, Allegheny County, state Rep. Frank Burns, D-East Taylor Township, knows there’s work to be done.

“What I think needs to happen is a shift in mindset,” he said. “We have to determine if Pennsylvania is going to be manufacturing state or not.”

Burns is co-chair of the state House Steel Caucus and visited the Edgar Thomson Plant with his fellow co-chair, state Rep. Natalie Mihalek, R-Allegheny.

“As co-chair of the House Steel Caucus it was a pleasure to visit the Edgar Thomson Plant on National Manufacturing Day and see first-hand the amazing steelmaking process,” Mihalek said in a release. “As someone that was born and raised in the Mon Valley, I know very well how proud our region is of our steel industry and the outstanding work ethic of the thousands of employees here at U.S. Steel’s Mon Valley Works.”

The two were shown how the steel is produced and met with company representatives afterward.

“I came straight out and asked them, ‘What can we do as legislators to ensure these mills are built in Pennsylvania?’ ” Burns said.

Part of the reason for his visit was to court U.S. Steel into possibly constructing a future $3 billion, 3-million-ton miniature mill in Johnstown, which would bring roughly 300 manufacturing jobs to the area.

The company has had mills in the city in the past.

Burns met with other elected officials from the local, state and federal levels last Friday, organized by state Rep. Jim Rigby, R-Ferndale, to discuss the matter further.

He said the business representatives told him the search for the next mill’s location was in its infancy and brought up regulations that have kept them from investing in the commonwealth in the past.

Part of that issue is that Pennsylvania has a slower permitting process compared to other states, Burns said.

“This is a competitive business,” he added.

The representative said U.S. Steel can be up and running faster elsewhere in the country, and that’s something the Legislature can address, but noted that they have to be proactive to do so.

One hurdle he mentioned was showing Gov. Tom Wolf that there’s interest in the state being a hub for manufacturing again.

Burns also spoke about how governmental regulatory agencies hold the power in these situations.

As for the chances Johnstown could see a steel mill any time soon, Burns doesn’t want to give anyone false hope.

“It always has been and will be a challenge to get them to come to Johnstown,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean we stop trying. ... We have to put our best foot forward and try to work with them the best we can.”

He considered Friday’s meeting a good one and stated that an open line of communication has been developed.

Calls made by The Tribune-Democrat to U.S. Steel were not returned on Friday. 

Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5054. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.

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