Despite new owners and name, New Castle Stainless Plate plans to burnish its legacy
March 2017 - Ownership of the quarto plate stainless steel mill in New Castle, Indiana, transferred from Finland’s Outokumpu Oy to American interests on Jan. 25, 2017. The assets now belong to the mill management team and DʼOrazio Capital Partners LLC. Michael Stateczny, president of New Castle Stainless Plate LLC, led the acquisition team that included five other members of the plant’s senior leadership.
MM: After being part of Outokumpu for many years, what are some of the challenges and advantages you face as an independent operation?
Michael Stateczny: Developing key markets for specialty stainless plate will be our biggest challenge, and we will miss the tremendous resources and expertise that Outokumpu contributed in this area. Outokumpu has been a leader in getting specialty grades accepted into key industry standards since it acquired the mill in 2004. Our team has some big boots to fill in this regard, but we are up to the challenge. Visitors to our mill often comment on what I consider one of our biggest advantages: the passion and entrepreneurial spirit of our leadership and employees. It is this entrepreneurial culture that will drive us in developing key markets and supporting customer needs in the future.
MM: What does returning to American ownership mean to your team?
Stateczny: Our employees are very proud of the important role we have played in the New Castle community, given our 115 years of continuous operation at this site. Originally, the site rolled steel for farm implements. During World War II, the mill provided shovels for Allied soldiers. The opportunity to build on this legacy, as an independent entity, represents the greatest opportunity for our employees. Our deepest customer relationships are in the United States and Canada. So we plan to work diligently to ensure our service center, fabricator and end-user partners have a local, reliable and quality company that is easy to do business with.
MM: How do strong relationships with customers and suppliers help ease the transition while continuing to produce world-class stainless steels?
Stateczny: Steel is a transactional business based primarily on relationships. The acquisition, in collaboration with D’Orazio Capital Partners, would not have been possible if not for the mill’s legacy of excellence and strong relationships with customers and suppliers. I have spoken with many customers and key suppliers since our acquisition, and all are tremendously supportive. I have assured everyone that it is business as usual, despite the change in name and ownership structure. We must meet or exceed the increasing demands of our sophisticated customer base. We have to earn their trust every day. It’s a tall order, but I am confident we can continue New Castle’s reputation in producing world-class stainless plate and building upon our valued relationships.
MM: Please talk about the recent capital improvements to the facility and what these upgrades add for your customers.
Stateczny: Fifty-eight million dollars were invested in our finishing operations, a project that was commissioned in 2010. The improvements in product flow, capability and manufacturing agility allow us to be extremely responsive to changes in demand and adopt lean manufacturing principles. The continuous improvement program started in 2006 continues to yield advancements in workplace safety, process and operational efficiency. Combined with our deep partnership with ArcelorMittal—whereby we have access to the world-class capabilities of three rolling mills—these improvements give us unmatched capabilities in the North American market.
MM: As you look ahead, what is most exciting about this new chapter?
Stateczny: Based on my extensive experience in our industry, I have seen many examples of customers and competitors that have taken full advantage of focused, committed and local ownership. The trust in the leadership and employees in New Castle provide me with great optimism that the best is yet to come for our new, American-owned business and all our stakeholders. MM
Mike Stateczny is a 35-year veteran of the stainless steel industry, having started with Jones & Laughlin Steel in 1981. He worked with Outokumpu for 27 years with roles in sales, marketing, business development and general management.