Representatives from a struggling southeast Missouri nail factory were in Washington D.C. Tuesday to plea for relief from the trade war.
Missourinet media partner KFVS-TV reports leading officers from Poplar Bluff’s Mid-Continent Steel and Wire made their case directly to the head of the Commerce Department.
The meeting has been in the works since June 1, and it’s a step in the company’s goal to be excluded from steel tariffs that have hurt their business. Mid Continent Vice President George Skarich and Operations Manager Chris Pratt were granted face time with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
Pratt told KFVS they had a healthy discussion and were given a chance to talk about the urgent situation facing the nail company.
The company says it’s lost 70 percent of its business and laid off about 160 workers since President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports began on June 1. The company now employs fewer than 340 workers, down from about 500 before the tariffs took effect. It also faces possible closure around Labor Day.
KFVS reports Mid-Continent’s management believes their meeting Tuesday helped their cause, but there has been no confirmation yet on whether their tariff exclusion has been accepted or declined.
Mid Continent, which is the last major nail supplier in the United States, is owned by Mexico-based Deacero. The parent company produces steel and ships the material to its own plant in Poplar Bluff.
The U.S. Commerce Department is experiencing a huge backlog of exemption requests – leaving the future of several U.S. manufacturers in trouble. The agency is sifting through thousands of requests for exclusions and companies are reportedly waiting a prolonged period of time to get a response on any decisions.
Both candidates in Missouri’s U.S. Senate race have championed the cause of Mid Continent. Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill sounded the alarm in June about the company’s tariff issues.
Her opponent, Republican state Attorney General Josh Hawley toured the factory last Friday and sent a letter to Deacero Chief Executive Officer Raul M. Gutierrez Muguerza Monday. Hawley urged Gutierrez Muguerza to keep the facility open beyond Labor Day and noted he’s trying to persuade the President to exempt Mid Continent form the tariffs.
“I have told the Trump Administration that Mid Continent makes a strong case for an exemption and I continue to urge the Department of Commerce to grant it quickly, but the fact remains that your company also has a critical role to play,” said Hawley.
He also urged Gutierrez Muguerza not to fold the Poplar Bluff operation into Deacero’s nail factory in Mexico and asked the chief executive not let ill will with American steel producers impact his decision-making process.
“First, one of Deacero’s brands, Aceros Nacionales, also produces nails, but it does so in Mexico. The negotiation over tariffs should not be an excuse for you to kill American jobs and consolidate Deacero’s nail manufacturing to Mexico,” Hawley said. “Second, according to many reports, you have fought with steel manufacturers in the United States over potential dumping violations made by Deacero. As U.S. steel manufacturers begin to rebound because of the administration’s negotiations, I certainly hope that you would not make decisions based on previous grudges.”
The company says soaring costs from 25% tariffs on steel have raised the price of the raw materials Mid Continent uses to produce nails. The increased prices have led customers to cancel orders and find cheaper nails in China, Taiwan, India and elsewhere.
Missourinet’s Alisa Nelson contributed to this report