President Donald Trump signed orders to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum starting March 23rd.
Both NAFTA trading partners, Mexico and Canada, are except from the tariff.
Scott Martinez, President of the North Louisiana Economic Partnership, said “The backbone of what we see in our economy is related to manufacturing and manufacturing processes that most often use steel and aluminum.”
Conrad Klotzbach owns Con-Fab Engineering and Welding in Shreveport. He said he could see changes in the steel industry were becoming real even when the tariffs were theoretical.
Klotzbach said “In the last week, week and a half, we’ve seen plate prices go up eight cents a pound.”
Eight cents a pound doesn’t sound like much but it can add up quickly.
Klotzbach said “The new I-40 bridge over the White Water River in Arkansas. We shipped in probably 750 tons of steel.”
The price difference on that job would have been around $100,000.
Even with higher prices distribution centers like Ryerson in Shreveport have been buying more than usual because they don’t know if their mills will be able to keep up production.
Mark Tatum works in sales at Ryerson and said “A lot more people are going after the domestic steel which we sell.”
Prices going up for distributors mean prices are also going up for customers.
Darren Eason is the General Manager for Ryerson, and said “We’re trying to keep the increase at bay as much as we can but at the end of the day the price increases from the mill are real.”
Con-Fab is putting escalation clauses in all new contracts warning customers steel prices could go up. If potential builders are already strapped for cash this could mean projects are scrapped altogether.
Klotzbach said “Projects that are in the planning stage that are kind of iffy on the economics and additional costs of the materials may turn the project south and they decide not to do the project.”