AK Steel meet

A group of local politicians and economic development officials, led by Ashland Mayor Steve Gilmore, recently met to discuss the impact that will be felt on their communities by the plant closing.  They plan to put forth a cooperative effort to encourage AK to sell the property and ensure that it is not just left as a blight on the communities. They will work closely with the Ashland Alliance and state legislators to assist in marketing the property and locating potential buyers for future industrial use. In attendance were Eric Chaney, Boyd County Judge Executive; T.J. Morrison, Boyd County Economic Development Director; Faith Pike, Mayor of Catlettsburg; Donald Wellman, Catlettsburg Councilman; Bobby Carpenter, Greenup County Judge Executive; Ron Fields, Mayor of Flatwoods; Mike Graese, City Manager of Ashland; Chris Pullem, Ashland Community & Economic Development Director; and Katherine Utsinger, Ashland Economic Development Specialist. Ron Simpson, Mayor of Russell was unable to attend but is working with the group as well. Submitted photo.

As AK Steel continues to shut down its Ashland operations, local political leaders are working together to coordinate an approach to the question of what will happen to AK Steel’s massive property and infrastructure along the Ohio River.

AK Steel said in email to The Daily Independent on Wednesday it was open to offers on the property.

“We are open to legitimate offers for purchase of the property,” wrote Lisa H. Jester, corporate manager, Communications & Public Relations for AK Steel.

The company has said it is working to transfer as many employees as possible to other locations. AK Steel — with a long, glorious history in Ashland — is ending the Ashland operation with its January announcement it plans to close the largely idled Ashland Works facility by the end of 2019. Most of the operations, including the blast furnace, had been idle since Dec. 15, 2015, but AK in Ashland continued to operate a single hot dip galvanizing coating line that, at the beginning of the year, had more than 200 employees. The company said it was offering many employees jobs at other company facilities.

AK Steel’s website describes the Ashland property as “located along the Ohio River in northeast Kentucky, cover(ing) almost 700 acres with dock and rail facilities.”

“Ashland provides semi-finished slabs to Middletown Works. The Ashland Works caster has set numerous world records, including 1,851 consecutive heats.”

Ashland Mayor Steve Gilmore said local leaders are continuing to meet to develop a game plan for what's next. In the short term, he said it will be up to AK Steel to determine what happens to the industrial property. He said local leaders are ready to assist in any way.

City Commissioner Amanda Clark and Gilmore said the Board of Commissioners — along with representatives of Boyd County, the Ashland Alliance, leaders in Greenup County and other local municipalities -- are all paying close attention to what happens to the AK property and if local economic development officials can find a way to identify new, productive uses for the property. Gilmore said he would like to see a new company or companies come in perhaps to use existing infrastructure. All options are on the table, but again, ultimately the most important step is finding out what AK Steel's plans are for the land. He said local leaders throughout the region wrote AK Steel a letter letting them know they are here to help.