The importance of steel to our nation's security assumes even greater significance in a defense economy - and the contribution made by Newport Steel is outstanding.
On the banks of the Licking River, nears its confluence with the Ohio River, an ever-growing Newport Steel corporation has been in continuous operation for 65 years.
A steel plant in Wilders [sic], Ky., just south of Newport, the Newport plant, pictured here, and a blast furnace at Martins Ferry, Ohio constitute the physical facilities of the firm. Employing more than 2,600 workers, Newport Steel has long been Northern Kentucky's largest industry. Like "Big Steel," Newport produces its own pig iron, ingots, finished sheets and coils, and fabricat[es] roofing, culverts, and other products.
The path of ore and scrap metal through Newport Steel's monstrous mill - on their journey to become refined steel - if of more than passing interest. At the beginning of the course is the white-hot, open-hearth furnaces.
Newport Steel operates seven open-hearth furnaces, averaging 100 tons capacity each. The rectangular brick structures, heated by oil to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, derive their name from the fact that the hearth or floor is open to a sweep of flames which melt the metal. Raw materials, including scrap, pig iron, stone, and ore, are charged through the doors of the giant furnaces. Twelve hours later, the refined steel is drawn off by knocking a plug out of the back of the furnace, and allowing molten steel to flow by gravity into the waiting ladle, where the slag is floated off and the metal poured into ingot molds. Steel is "tailor-made" to customer's specifications during the open-hearth operation. Three 75-ton electric furnaces are also operated in Newport.
After the hot metal has cooled in the ingot molds, the ingots are reheated in soaking pits until they can be rolled into blooms or slabs on a rolling mill,, which consists of two power-driven steel rolls. The ingot is pulled back and forth between the rolls some 20 times - like clothes through a ringer - reducing its thickness, lengthening it proportionally and producing a long bar-like bloom from a chunky ingot. During this process, the ingot is repeatedly turned over on its side, so that all four sides are thoroughly kneaded.
Newport operates five circular soaking pits, each with a capacity of 70 tons, heating steel ingots to 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit.
After the ingot is reduced to proper thickness, it is sheared for further rolling sizes on a hot shear. Shearing pieces are then processed through a series of automatic roll stands, shaping the hot steel into a sheet bar ranging in width from 12 to 22 inches, with a thickness of 0.22 to 2.5 inches. The production of this mill approximates 600 to 650 tons per eight hour turn.
After the last pass through the mill, the strip is automatically run down the "run-out" table, which is equipped with water sprays whose purpose is to cool the strip preparatory to it being coiled in the "finish coiler." When the strip is coiled, it is pushed off onto a conveyor table, weighed, marked, and stored for shipment.
Finishings for special orders - such as "crimping" for steel roofing, painting for coated steel sheets, and corrugator operations for producing corrugated steel - are carried on after the strips have cooled to room temperature.
Since the war, more than $12,000,000 have been spent to expand and improve Newport's mills. Now under construction are still other developments which will make Newport an even more important unit in the defense effort.
In 1950 the company set up pension plan covering all workers at Corporation expense, and 23 men already have been retired under its provisions. The company also provides an insurance program which covers sickness, accident, death, and hospitalization benefits at a cost so low that practically all employees now enjoy this protection.
Ten years ago, Newport, which is an 0ver-the-counter stock, changed 20,000 shares of $25.00 par to 500,000 shares of $1 par, the exchange giving 26 new shares for each old share. Later in 1941, the firm offered 153,331 shares of common stock at $10.80 per share. Of these shares, 114,998 represented new financing by the company and the remaining 38,338 were sold by stockholders. Net income in 1941 was $916,000, as compared with $1,468,000 in 1949. Net sales in the same period rose from $9,107,000 to $70,023,000 - an increase of more than 700 per cent.
With 66,000 share holders, as of October, 1949, Newport Steel had total assets of $36,804,057 and a net working capital in excess of $8,000,000.
In the present national emergency, the importance of steel as the backbone of the nation's economy takes on added impetus. The importance of this industry to our nation and to Kentucky is vital to victory in a war and imperative to a successful economy, whatever the course of the world crisis. And the tremendous contribution Newport Steel is making will play no small part in our fight to retain our freedoms.
No author was credited in this story which appeared in the February, 1951 issue of Kentucky Business.