President Trump’s tariff on steel imports that took effect June 1 has caused a southeast Missouri nail manufacturer to lose about 50% of its business in two weeks. Mid Continent Nail Corporation in Poplar Bluff – the remaining major nail producer in the country – has had to take drastic measures to make ends meet. The company employing 500 people earlier this month has laid off 60 temporary workers. It could slash 200 more jobs by the end of July and be out of business around Labor Day.
During a Finance Committee hearing this week on Capitol Hill, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, sounded the alarm about the company going downhill and fast.
Mid Continent is one of the largest employers in Butler County and the second largest manufacturer in Poplar Bluff. If push comes to shove, slicing the remaining 440 jobs that pay an average of $12.50 an hour would add to the Bootheel’s struggling reputation marked by several of the poorest counties in the state.
Mid Continent is owned by Mexico-based Deacero. The parent company produces steel and ships the material to its Poplar Bluff plant. Spokesperson Elizabeth Heaton tells Missourinet Deacero is being hit with the 25% tariff for importing steel to its own company.
The manufacturer’s existence in Missouri is riding on whether the federal government will grant a tariff exemption on the steel wire it gets from Mexico. The U.S. Commerce Department is holding the fate of several American companies in its hands. The agency is dealing with a backlog from its more than 20,000 exemption requests.
“Something would have to happen very fast, within days in order for us to know that things were going to improve. We’re hoping that this could get pushed through very quickly,” Heaton says.
The company has also requested a meeting with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Heaton says.
“There are only about 15 of these companies left and Mid Continent produces about 50% of the nails out of those 15. If you could imagine, if it were to go out of business and that is of course worse case scenario, we want to do everything that we can to make sure that does not happen, that would be a huge blow to that segment of the industry. It’s a big deal, not just for Missouri and for the economy there, but for the whole industry.”
Heaton says the company is currently focused on trying to keep the Missouri plant open and does not believe there have been discussions on whether to move the Poplar Bluff operation to Mexico.
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