Construction industry anticipating good times with Algoma Steel projects on the horizon
The Sault Ste. Marie Construction Association says its industry anticipates good times ahead in light of a recent announcement suggesting Algoma Steel will inject millions of dollars into capital projects. “It’s exciting news,” said Adam Pinder, manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Construction Association. “This substantial investment will mean a lot for a lot of trades people and employers in a lot of sectors for a long time.” Algoma Steel emerged from bankruptcy protection last week. The new owners have said they plan to spend $300 million to modernize the steel mill by expanding its product base and increasing efficiencies. Pinder said that while details of the modernization plan are not yet known, he anticipates a mix of new and refurbished construction at the west-end facility. “That is something that usually requires a good number of trades and work that can carry on for quite some time,” he said. Carpenters, labourers, plumbers and pipefitters, iron workers and electricians, are among those who could be called upon to modernize the plant to meet the changing market demands. “That’s a healthy mix. Whenever there is work to be done at a major industrial facility, there are always a number of trades that are called upon,” he said. Algoma Steel CEO Kalyan Ghosh also told reporters last week that the steel plant favours local suppliers and industries. Algoma spends on average $1.2 billion on goods and services each year. The company has about 600 active vendors locally, representing an annual spend of more than $200 million. To Pinder, any commitment to work with local construction industry companies is positive to the area’s economy, to the businesses themselves and their employees. “It makes good sense to use local suppliers and vendors because they have the specialized knowledge that is needed to complete the work inside the plant that has to be done,” he said. “They know the ins and outs of the plant and grasp the understanding of what it is like to work in those industrialized conditions.” Pinder said the increased work may also create more opportunities for apprenticeships. It’s been no secret that all construction industry sectors have been cognizant that the skilled trade workforce is quickly aging and there are less young people choosing to enter trades. Pinder said a push toward the trades is necessary. Providing apprentices with some experience working alongside veterans during projects such as this is important. “This is an opportunity where we can grow and educate the next generation of workers,” he said. “Certainly we’ve had some challenges getting young people into the trades.” Despite many local contractors never receiving the money they were owed from invoices from goods and services purchased before Algoma’s pre Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act filing, Pinder said it appears they are continuing to work and provide product to the new company. “There is no other option. They need to continue working and to continue to provide those goods and services,” he said. Pinder said that he also anticipates that the increased confidence in the local economy could drive businesses to invest more capital into their own expansion or modernization plans.