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Steel Slump Limits Investments

September 25, 2001

CLEVELAND, (AP) _ Steel experts say the industry slump is restricting investments in new manufacturing technology.

``The financial backing for new products just isn’t out there,″ said Larry Maloney, managing director of the Pittsburgh-based Association of Iron and Steel Engineers. ``Right now it’s mostly about maintenance, not new investment.″

AISE, the industry’s largest technical association, is sponsoring the 2001 Iron and Steel Exposition and annual convention in Cleveland through Wednesday. Maloney said the event is important even though steel companies may not be able to make investments at this time.

``The industry has to continue making plans to modernize for when they are able,″ Maloney said.

The exposition features 310 company exhibits, compared with 521 in 1999. Exposition manager Geraldine Kanc said much of the decline can be attributed to the steel industry’s economic concerns.

Many of those problems have been compounded by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the resulting economic slowdown. Steel Manufacturers Association President Tom Danjczek said many steel stocks lost 20 to 30 percent of their value last week.

``Automotive companies have seen values drop 23 percent -- 20 percent of our steel goes to automotive makers _ we’re obviously affected,″ Danjczek said. ``But none of this is solely a steel problem. It’s a manufacturing problem.″

Dan DiMicco, president and chief executive of Nucor Corp., a Charlotte, N.C.-based steel manufacturer, said the attacks’ impact on the steel industry will be minimal.

``Some people think that if we go to war, it will increase the demand for steel, but this is not going to be a conventional war in any sense,″ DiMicco said. ``Our business will go as the economy goes. The effects will be no more negative or positive.″

Many exhibitors said limited investments by the steel industry have not stopped their companies from conducting research.

``We continue to work on new technologies and new processes. We’re always trying to help out the steel industry,″ said Nick Marchiano, an application specialist for ASB Industries, Inc. He said steel represents 30 to 40 percent of ASB’s business.

``But of course there are concerns because the steel industry is so slow right now,″ Marchiano said. ``There are five main competitors in our field and only two, including us, have showed up at this convention, I think that tells you something.″

John Miller, vice president of market development for NKK Steel Engineering, said many suppliers came to the exposition to meet each other and talk to clients personally.

``The industry may not be investing, not now,″ Miller said. ``But we’re looking to the future, always.″

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