Economy hits home with AK

Published 10:56 am Thursday, November 13, 2008

More than 600 employees at AK Steel’s Ashland, Ky., plant were given some harsh news on Tuesday when they learned they will be laid off Nov. 22.

The plant is expected to remain idle until at least January. A small number of workers will remain at the plant to prepare for a restart.

“We remain hopeful that we will be able to return our dedicated and hardworking employees to their jobs as swiftly as possible,” said AK Steel Chairman James L. Wainscott. “Of course, that depends entirely on credit availability and consumer confidence, which are at the heart of this serious economic downturn.”

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The reasons for the plant’s suspension of operations can be debated, but it is safe to say the struggles of the U.S. automotive industry have been staggering and at some point their difficulties were going to lead to ramifications for the businesses directly affected.

If the plant’s suspension will have further impact on other regional businesses remains unclear. That can come in the form of other contractors that do business with the plant or the businesses that rely on AK Steel families.

There certainly will be an impact in the area and the hope is that the U.S. auto industry can somehow find stability in order to stabilize the U.S. steel market and the various companies that rely upon it.

The struggling U.S. economy has certainly hit local consumers in the form of higher gas prices, higher energy costs, higher food costs, various service industry closings and the like.

But Tuesday’s announcement that one of the region’s industrial staples has been brought to a halt is a sign of the wide-reaching and devastating effects of this economic turmoil.