Liberty Steel mill production shift impacts 50-plus workers | News

GEORGETOWN — More than 50 workers at Liberty Steel will be lose their jobs at the mill by early summer under a production shift attributed to cheap imports and rising costs.

The company announced April 19 that it is temporarily halt its wire rod manufacturing business in Georgetown. It said its remaining workers will continue making steel mesh and welded steel products at the mill.

“Unfortunately, market forces are working against us in the rod market with the increase in imports and significant pressure on transportation costs,” Pieter Vanderwesthuizen, Liberty’s chief operating officer, said in a written statement. “We fully intend to bring the rod mill back up as soon as it makes financial sense to do so.”

The production pause takes effect June 18 and will eliminate more than 50 jobs. Liberty said it will offer workers opportunities at other locations or severance packages “with help finding their new roles if they choose to stay in South Carolina.”

Liberty Steel workers

A crew works at Liberty Steel in Georgetown on Feb. 7.

“We remain committed to the long-term viability of our Georgetown facility and continue to invest in the business,” Vanderwesthuizen said.

James Sanderson, president of United Steelworkers Local 7898, could not be reached for comment Friday. Last summer, he said the downtown mill employed 72 workers.

A surge in imports has roiled the steel market, leading to decreased rod prices that aren’t sufficient to cover the production costs in Georgetown.


Liberty Steel’s mill has been operating at Front and Fraser streets in Georgetown under various owners since the late 1960s. 

“Liberty is not idling the facility, but concentrating on the making of engineered wire products until markets recover,” according to the company’s statement. “In addition to the manufacturing of steel mesh and welded steel products, Liberty Steel will also perform needed maintenance on machinery and the property.”

The wire rod made at the mill for years is used in various products, from tires to bridge cables.

The job cuts are another blow for the mill, once among the city’s largest employers.

Georgetown’s economy relied on the lumber industry in the early 20th century before the arrival of International Paper’s plant in 1936.

Georgetown Steel helped further diversify the community’s industrial base in the 1960s, but the mill cycled through various owners and industry changes that reduced its workforce before it was purchased by Liberty Steel in 2017.

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Liberty Steel is halting production of wire rod at its Georgetown mill.

The plant closed during pandemic and resumed operations in January 2022 with about 65 workers, well below the hundreds of employees who once worked in the mill.

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