The economic engine of iron and steel is responsible for 58,000 jobs in Minnesota that pay a total of $4 billion in wages and salaries annually — while generating $16 billion in industry output and nearly $2 billion in federal, state and local taxes. The steelmaking process starts with iron ore. Almost all the iron ore mined here is used in making steel. The iron and steel industries are inextricably linked, and work done in Minnesota to mine ore is the foundation and basis of the steel that helped build our nation.
The Soo Locks are critical to the steel industry. More than 75 million tons of cargo annually pass through the Locks, in Michigan, including nearly all of the iron ore pellets that are essential for the American steel industry throughout the Great Lakes. New investments in the Soo Locks are essential to ensuring the competitiveness of American steelmakers by guaranteeing access to domestic raw materials that support domestic jobs and local communities.
However, the Locks are in need of substantial investment and modernization to avoid unexpected failures or closure that substantially would harm the steel industry and the larger domestic economy.
In his 2020 budget proposal, President Donald Trump included a request for more than $75 million for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to modernize the Soo Locks, and the House of Representatives included this in its funding bill. This funding will, among other things, be used to begin construction of a second Poe-sized lock.
The steel industry extends its strong appreciation to Congressman Pete Stauber, R-Minnesota, for his leadership in ensuring this funding and for his strong advocacy for the steel industry and related jobs in Minnesota. We urge the U.S. Senate to follow this path and ensure this funding is retained.
Thomas J. Gibson
The writer is president and CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute. He wrote this for the News Tribune.