Indiana led nation in steel production again in 2018

March 21st, 2019

By Joseph S. Pete for the Times of Northwest Indiana | Indiana Economic Digest

Indiana led the nation in steel production again in 2018, maintaining the top spot it's held for more than four decades and producing more than twice as much steel as the second-place state.

American Iron and Steel Institute spokesman Jake Murphy said steel mills in the Hoosier state made 26.7 million net tons of steel last year, up from 24.1 million tons in 2017.

Murphy said Indiana has led the nation in steel production since 1977.

Indiana made more than a fourth of the nation's steel last year. The next biggest steel-producing state, Ohio, made 10.88 million tons in 2018, down from 10.92 million tons in 2017.

The Washington, D.C.-based American Iron and Steel Institute. reported U.S. steelmakers made 95.5 million tons of steel last year, which was up from 89.9 million tons the previous year and the most produced in the United States since the 98.1 million tons U.S. steelworkers cranked out back in 2007.

The United States has manufactured an average of only 81.9 million tons a year since then, with India surpassing America in steel production in 2015. Imports have supplied roughly 23 to 30 percent of the steel used in the United States over the last several years, according to AISI. 

Indiana has roughly half the nation's blast furnace capacity, at the hulking integrated steel mills along the shores of Lake Michigan in Northwest Indiana.

The Hoosier state took the steelmaking crown in the late 1970s, when the American steel industry was gutted during a period of cutthroat foreign competition that left many steel mills shuttered and mill towns hollowed-out husks of their former selves. 

Mills in Northwest Indiana continued to prosper because of their position on the Great Lakes that ensured a constant, cost-effective supply of raw materials like iron ore and coke.

Much of the steelmaking in Northwest Indiana takes place in Lake and Porter counties, at the big mills that ring Lake Michigan's southern shore.

The Region is home to the nation's largest steel mill, Gary Works, North America's largest integrated steelmaking complex, ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor in East Chicago, and the newest integrated steel mill in the country, ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor.

The steelmaker Steel Dynamics Inc. also is based in Fort Wayne. And Nucor, which has surpassed U.S. Steel as the largest steel company headquartered in the United States, operates a mini mill in Crawfordsville.

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