Joliet steel plant closure will cost 110 jobs - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Joliet steel plant closure will cost 110 jobs

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Illinois continues to suffer more plant-closing stories than most of us can absorb, but for Will County's "City of Steel" to lose its last steel mill -- one that's more than a century-old -- it's a particular tragedy.

A truck bearing a shipment of metal rods pulled away from the Joliet area's last remaining steel mill late Wednesday evening. The current owners, based in Brazil, plan to close the plant next month, putting more than 100 out of work.

"They're union jobs. They're very good-paying jobs. Okay? It'd take about 3 or 4 warehouse jobs to replace it," Dennis Cohil told FOX 32.

"Unfortunately, the facility was not competitive," wrote a Gerdau company official in an e-mail from Tampa, Florida. The decision means there will soon be no steel mill left in or around Joliet, despite its longtime nickname, "City of Steel" and the fact that students at Joliet Central High School still proudly call themselves "Steelmen."

Local politicians, also facing the loss of 200 more factory jobs at CommScope that are moving to North Carolina, tried to find a silver lining.

"Will County's going through a transition," Will County Executive Larry Walsh said. "We are the global center of North America here, global transportation center. We are the largest inland port."

The loss of Joliet's last steel mill hit Damon Zdunich hard. He earned college tuition working summers there. His father worked there for many decades and his grandfather spent his career at the now-deserted U.S. Steel plant nearby.

"It was just a great way of life," Zdunich reflects. "You know, it was that middle-class lifestyle.

It's a middle-class that is shrinking in Illinois.

In January, the University of Illinois found the state had 641,000 fewer jobs than it did 13 years ago. That's more economic damage than has ever been caused by all the tornadoes that have ever hit the state, combined. By coincidence, that's almost exactly the number of unemployed currently looking for work.

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