ST. JOHN PARISH, La. (WVUE) - St. John Parish residents get some good holiday news. They have just learned that a steel group based in Great Britain may soon take over the shuttered Bayou Steel plant.
Wherever you go in St. John Parish, there’s optimism about new life for an old steel plant.
“It was sad to hear that so many people lost their jobs at once, so close to the holidays,” said LaPlace resident Stacey Weber.
For people concerned about their neighbors and nearly 400 lost jobs, it’s beginning to feel a little bit like the holidays.
“I think that would be great, people around here need jobs,” said former steelworker Danny Williford.
Three months ago Bayou Steel, a mainstay employer in this region for 40 years, declared bankruptcy and shut down and business fell off around 15% at Harry’s one-stop right next door.
“After they closed a lot of people lost their jobs, and I haven’t seen my regular customers. I miss them,” said Ha Haong, the owner of Harry’s.
Now a company called Liberty Steel, part of the CG alliance, announced it has been named a preferred buyer for Bayou Steel and could re-open a portion of this huge plant by the middle of next year.
"The good news about Liberty Steel is they have a strong global reputation for resuscitating steel mills," said Michael Hecht with GNO Inc.
In a statement, Liberty Steel said it hopes to resume recycling operations at the LaPlace plant in the second half of the new year with steelmaking operations kicking back in sometime in 2021.
Though a new deal to get this plant running again must still be approved by bankruptcy court the president of CFG Alliance is already welcoming Bayou Steel into their family of steel plants saying they see good potential here.
“It isn’t just St. John, a number of workers come from Tangipahoa and surrounding parishes, and it’s a regional business,” said Hecht.
Liberty Steel says it follows, what it calls a Greensteel strategy which focuses on renewable sources of energy to operate its plants.
“They’re pushing forward with carbon-free production, and in England, they’re looking at wind power,” said Hecht.
If all goes well, the help-wanted sign could go back up at the old bayou steel site within the next six months.
“It’s very good Christmas news, you hate to hear of so many people losing their jobs, it puts a strain on the community,” said Weber.
A strain that could be lifted soon if the bankruptcy court approves.
The Liberty group has put together a $28 million deal to acquire Bayou Steel. A Liberty executive says the LaPlace site is well suited for Steel Production given it’s a deepwater port and competitive power prices.
The incoming St. John Parish president says she’s excited about the potential for the future of the Bayou Steel plant.
In a statement, Jaclyn Hotard says: "This investment will potentially restore lost jobs and hopefully create new jobs as the plant is upgraded and modernized according to Liberty’s plan. “We will closely follow this deal as it makes its way through the process.”