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With the US economy in a free fall and the automotive industry in all kinds of trouble a few years ago, ArcelorMittal steel works in Cleveland, Ohio, suspended operations, furloughed workers.
And then, it bounced back, bringing back those workers, and hiring 150 more over the last four years. It is today one of the most productive steel plants in the world.
“The story of this plant is the story of America over the last five years,” said President Barack Obama after a tour of the sprawling facility on Thursday. “I want to thank your CEO, Lakshmi Mittal, for investing in America and the Cleveland area,” said the president pointing to a beaming Mittal. “We appreciate him.”
ArcelorMittal bought the 100-year-old plant in 2005. But Mittal didn’t get a chance to visit the facility since — he was there to receive the president, and give him a tour.
The Cleveland plant makes steel mostly for the automotive industry and has been upgrading its technology for lighter, stronger steel needed for clean, fuel-efficient vehicles.
The plant operates two blast furnaces and is capable of producing 3.8 million tons of raw steel annually.
“This year alone, we’ve invested $70 million here in Cleveland,” said Mittal before Obama took the stage. “And this investment supported the creation of 150 new jobs.”
The president’s visit was aimed at highlighting economic recovery on his watch, starting in 2009 at the worst of the recession triggered by the housing collapse.
“Over the last 44 months, our businesses have created 7.8 million new jobs,” Obama said, adding, “Last month, another 200,000 Americans went back to work.”
But the recovery has been sluggish with unemployment standing at 7.3%, a figure that most experts agree does not reflect the real picture, with many opting out of the job market in frustration.