Starting in the 1800’s, the industrial era changed the steel industry forever. Previously, steel was an expensive product to make and obtain as it was created in small quantities outside the country. But with industrial expansion in the US, manufacturers made steel production faster and more efficiently than ever.
The United States became the largest producer of steel in the world thanks to high iron, coal and manpower availability. Technological advances like high production facilities integrated steel workers with machinery for low-cost production.
The steel industry grew quick, thanks to building booms across major US cities. The US government bought enough steel for shipbuilding, tanks and artillery for World War II to actually save the country from the financial ruin of the Great Depression. The twentieth century was good to the steel industry. But this was all about to change.
As time stretched on into the latter half of the 20th century, lower-wage workers overseas could produce an even cheaper product. Significantly undercutting domestic steel sales on the global stage, the US quickly started lagging as a steel-producing competitor.
Across the country from the 1980’s to early 2000’s steel mills began to close. Bethlehem and Republic mills both went bankrupt in 2001. Abandoned mills left workers unemployed and manufacturing buildings unused, creating what we now know as rust belt cities.
The World Steel Association claims that global steel production is increasing by 3% each year. And with less steel being imported from China and Japan- the world’s top producer- there is opportunity for steel production again in the US. The steel industry has had a bleak past, but experts suggest the industry is getting healthier.