BONITA SPRINGS, Fla.
Domestic steelmakers likely will see some bright spots in 2013,
but they must keep a close eye on potential challenges in the
form of global competition, ensuring access to affordable
energy, and the pace of technological advancements.
Steel executives participating
in a manufacturing roundtable at the Metals Service Center
Institutes Carbon Conference in Bonita Springs agreed
that several key markets are finally seeing a steady
"Many of our markets have done
well and continue to do well. Automotive isnt a surprise
to anyone. Our heavy equipment (sector) has slowed down a bit,
while energy and pipe and tube (sectors) continue to do well,"
said Ladd R. Hall, executive vice president of Charlotte,
N.C.-based Nucor Corp. "If the government doesnt overkill
with regulation, we have a lot of great opportunities. We see a
little light at the end of the tunnel. 2013 may be a little bit
of a different year ... at least we can hope."
Other roundtable participants
affirmed that the automotive and energy markets remain a bright
spot, particularly as the U.S. population grows and low-priced
natural gas attracts companies back to the United States. They
noted that nonresidential construction also has seen a
"We are seeing a little bit of a
slowdown across the board coming through February," said Carl
Parker, chief procurement officer at Hamilton, Ontario-based
Samuel, Son & Co. Ltd. "I expect well see a better
back half (of the year) than the first half. Construction is
starting off a little better and some people expect it will
continue through the rest of the year."
Participants pointed out that
ongoing technological advancements and innovation are key if
the steel industry is to grow and thrive in the global
"The markets are continuing to
force mills to change," Hall said. "The CAFE (corporate average
fuel economy) standards are demanding lighter, stronger and
more ductile material. We continue to go down that road and
develop a significant amount of high-strength steel." He noted
that the agricultural equipment industry also is seeking
lighter, more-efficient material.
"We continue to see automation
grow in our businesses. I think thats how the North
American economy will competein technological
innovations," Parker added.
cautioned that the relatively rapid migration of the automotive
production industry to the South and Southeast as well as into
Mexico could pose a competitive challenge in the future.
One solution to ensuring steady
growth, panelists said, is reaching out to local politicians
and taking advantage of the opportunity to make a difference on
Capitol Hill. Engagement, they argued, is the best way to
ensure the best result for U.S. businesses.
"We have to stay engaged (and)
we have to get engaged in communicating (to the government)
whats important to us," said Gary Stein, president and
chief executive officer of Triple-S Steel Holdings Inc. "That
starts with supporting their campaigns."