For the first time in six years, the Indiana/Chicago area became the country's top steel producing region for the week ending March 14.
Historically the nation's top steel producing area, the Calumet area lost the distinction in October 2002 as more steel companies opened mills in the South and the area's integrated mills idled production as they struggled from the flood of cheap, imported steel.
The South held the title through summer 2008, when all mills were operating a full capacity, but the recent consolidation of production as the result of the economic downturn returned Northwest Indiana to the top of the list.
"We're seeing regional variations in levels of production as the industry responds to market demand," said Nancy Gravatt, spokeswoman for the American Iron and Steel Institute, which compiles the weekly regional production statistics.
Northwest Indiana is one of the few areas of the country where both U.S. Steel Corp. and ArcelorMittal are concentrating their production,
"The individual companies that make up the North American steel industry continually analyze market conditions and seek to adjust production levels consistent with customer demand, including temporarily idling certain facilities as we have seen in recent months," Gravatt said. "So there may be regional variations in production levels, which are a necessary response to current market conditions."