METALS FORUM Winning hearts and honing policymakers’ perceptions

Dec 01, 2007 | 12:36 PM |

Over the past four years, the American steel industry has undergone a dynamic transformation that has yielded a competitive, strategic, technologically advanced and environmentally progressive industry. As most AMM readers who follow the industry know, the crisis period spanning 1998 to 2003, during which cheap foreign steel was illegally dumped on U.S. shores, led to many bankruptcies and layoffs. During the breathing space afforded by the Section 201 tariffs imposed by the Bush administration, America's steel industry underwent extensive consolidation, forged new labor-management agreements and developed a more effective cost structure.

Out of this period of dramatic change, a revitalized domestic steel industry emerged just as global demand for steel surged, primarily due to massive industrial expansion in China and other parts of Asia. The transformation isn't over. Overdue investments in advanced technologies occurred during the Section 201 period and have continued at a brisk pace, producing impressive gains in the environmental arena and in productivity. Even today, consolidation and its associated efficiencies continue.

Moving forward, the American Iron and Steel Institute's leadership believed that the crisis period had left lingering negative perceptions of the industry among an audience critical to the industry's future Washington policymakers. To determine whether this premise was correct, the AISI commissioned research by Harris Interactive in March 2006 to determine the extent to which policymakers viewed the American steel industry in outdated or unfavorable terms.

Interviews were conducted among 302 politically active opinion elites living within the Washington metropolitan region, who for research purposes served as a surrogate policymakers' group. The benchmark research showed that a plurality of respondents viewed the steel industry as old, dirty and outdated rather than modern, high-tech, clean and globally competitive. Most respondents (62 percent), however, were found to be in the middle—meaning there was ample room to change opinions.....

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