Johnstown Wire Technologies has been sold.
Liberty Steel, part of the London-headquartered GFG Alliance, acquired the business from Aterian Investment Partners, a private equity firm, according to announcements made by the two companies on Monday.
“It’s nothing but good news is the way I see it for Johnstown Wire,” JWT CEO Jack Miller said. “It’s not somebody that’s got a reputation that’s coming in and breaking up businesses and selling off the pieces.”
The company’s structure is expected to remain the same, according to Grant Quasha, GFG Alliance’s chief investment officer in the United States.
“We’re happy with the management team and workforce,” Quasha said. “And they’ll remain in place as they exist today.”
JWT, a 638,000-square-foot mill that employs 250 workers, is the largest producer of value-added carbon and alloy wire in North America. It is a top-three U.S. producer of the types of steel that Liberty expects will be used to modernize the nation’s infrastructure – CHQ, electro-galvanized, aluminized and spring wire.
More than half of JWT’s output is sold into the transportation sector.
“They’re looking to grow in the markets that we supply,” Miller said. “What that means directly? I couldn’t tell you at this point.”
Liberty Steel, in its press release, said it intends to “drive growth at JWT as the U.S. updates its infrastructure and electricity networks, thereby increasing demand for steel products such as support cables and guard rails for bridges and for electrical power lines.”
The company already operates melting and rolling operations in Georgetown, South Carolina, and Peoria, Illinois.
“Those businesses that we acquired are steel mills,” Quasha said. “We have joined those businesses together under one umbrella, and that’s Liberty Steel U.S. Those businesses both supply raw materials to Johnstown Wire and will continue to do so, so there’s already a relationship there, and Johnstown Wire represents the ability for us to add to the capability mix of our group of businesses in the U.S. by adding specific product lines that we currently don’t produce, such as bolt head quality fasteners and bolts, et cetera, for the automotive industry.”
Aterian Investment Partners purchased JWT, a former Bethlehem Steel Corp. property on Laurel Avenue in the city’s West End, in 2014. The company said it worked to invest in strategic commercial initiatives, new production equipment and IT platform, and operations processes during its ownership.
“We are proud of our significant investments into the Johnstown, Pennsylvania, facility and providing the company with the capital needed to execute on its strategic plan,” said Christopher H. Thomas, co-founder and partner at Aterian, in a released statement. “Further, it has been a pleasure to partner with the management team, employees and community in supporting Johnstown’s continued leadership position within the United States steel industry. We wish JWT the best of success and look forward to watching GFG and the company in its continued progress.”
JWT employees were told about a year ago that the business was for sale.
“We haven’t hid this,” Miller said. “We were owned by a private equity company whose business is buying and selling companies. When they actually started actively marketing us, I told all the employees.”
Liberty Steel was known to be interested in acquiring the wire mill as early as last October.
“It was of immediate interest to us because Johnstown is one of the largest customers of our steel business in the U.S., Liberty Steel, and we’ve always known Johnstown’s name, and their reputation for quality and strong performance,” Quasha said.