This year, my daughter’s third-grade class studied steel manufacturing in their social studies unit. When I was in third grade, we spent most of our time studying state flags, birds and flowers. I was thrilled they were covering a subject that is not only personally important to me but also important to our region.
I enthusiastically volunteered to visit her class and talk about steel. I had the challenging right-before-lunch slot. However, the class quickly quieted down with the first iron ore mining blast on U.S. Steel’s DVD “Steel from Start to Finish.”
After they watched, I asked the students to raise their hands if someone in their family works in a steel mill. Not surprisingly, about two-thirds of the class raised their hands.
The following were some of their responses: “My dad makes the steel.” “My grandma works with numbers.” “My dad fixes the machines.” “My dad doesn’t work for the steel mill, but he goes to the mill.”
These responses illustrate a valuable point about the economic impact of the steel industry. “The steel industry is a job creator, directly or indirectly supporting more than 1 million U.S. jobs,” according to research by Timothy J. Considine, a University of Wyoming professor of energy economics.
Considine’s study, "Economic Impacts of the American Steel Industry," further shows each job in the steel industry supports seven other jobs in the U.S. economy — a multiplier effect.
U.S. Steel has three facilities in Northwest Indiana — Gary Works, East Chicago Tin and the Portage Midwest Plant — all of which provide good-paying, quality jobs and benefits to more than 6,000 people. Using the multiplier, those 6,000 jobs support about 42,000 additional jobs in the economy, and many of those jobs are right here in the region.
In 2012, U.S. Steel spent about $688 million with Indiana vendors alone. Additionally, these numbers do not include the tens of thousands of U.S. Steel retirees and their families in the region who also contribute to the local economy.
I hope that I sparked some interest in a few of those students in a career in steel or in one of the industries we support. Aside from encouraging the next generation of workers, understanding the value of the steel industry and its importance is critical not only for third-graders but also for our region’s history and its future.
Additional information on steel and Considine’s study can be found on the American Iron and Steel Institute website, www.steel.org.