WAXAHACHIE — From skyscrapers to farmhouses and military vehicles to commuter cars, iron and steel have long supported Americans and the economy. In an effort to raise awareness on the important role the steel industry plays in the local and state economy, Friends of Texas Iron and Steel, a grassroots advocacy group, dedicates its time to educating Texans and state legislatures on the role the industry plays.
On Friday, the group released photos of the new Waxahachie High School that is being built with steel produced at the Gerdau steel mill in Midlothian, fabricated by Thornton Steel of Fort Worth and constructed by Richardson-based Gallagher Construction Services.
“I’m proud of the [Waxahachie Independent School District] for using domestic steel and supporting Texas jobs,” said State Rep. John Wray. Wray recently toured the construction site and offered his support of Friends of Texas Iron and Steel and the school district via a press release. “I am committed to working with Friends of Texas Iron and Steel to look for common sense solutions to ensure Texas has a strong, sustainable steel industry.”
On the heels of the support offered by Rep. Wray, Stan Baucum, Gerdau’s North American Director of Structural, Merchants and Piling Products, praised the WISD project and the numerous local leaders and businesses involved in the construction of the new school.
“Gerdau is excited to be involved with a project produced with high-quality steel produced in Texas that supports hundreds of local jobs for the people of Ellis County,” Baucum said. “My hope is other Texas school districts will follow Waxahachie ISD’s lead, demanding steel produced in the U.S. to ensure school buildings that are the most cost effective to construct and provide greater safety for students and faculty.”
WISD Superintendent Jeremy Glenn echoed Baucum on the importance of using locally produced steel.
“The boost to our local economy created by this project cannot be overstated,” Glenn said. “This is local steel, being produced and erected by local workers for the benefit of our local economy, students, and teachers. Waxahachie can be proud of our new high school and the way in which it was built.”
A press release issued by Friends of Texas Iron and Steel states the group seeks to “help craft business-friendly public policy solutions that ensure our hard-earned tax dollars are spent on high-quality, American-made iron and steel.
The release also states that American iron and steel manufacturers face steep challenges from both regulation at home and corrupt business and trade practices abroad.
“Foreign countries ship massive amounts of cheaply produced, inferior iron and steel onto Texas shores while providing their manufacturers government subsidies or engaging in trade manipulation,” the release adds. “Friends of Texas Iron and Steel will expose these practices and advocate for the tens of thousands of men and women in skilled, high-paying jobs surrounding the Texas iron and steel industries.”
THE STORY BEHIND THE STEEL
Chuck Hill and Donny Lassetter first met on the production floor of the Gerdau steel mill in Midlothian, later working together in the sales office of that company.
Today, Hill is a regional sales representative at Gerdau Long Steel North America, working out of that same Midlothian office. Lassetter, on the other hand, is president and CEO of Thornton Steel, a large Texas structural steel fabricator with facilities in Fort Worth and San Antonio.
Their paths crossed again at the intersection of Texas Highway 287 and Business 287, where the new Waxahachie High School is being constructed. The support structure of the high school is being constructed with steel, with all of the beams manufactured in the U.S. by Gerdau and most of that coming from the Midlothian mill.
“As a graduate of Waxahachie High School, this construction project has a personal significance to me,” Lassetter said. “I’m proud that we are able to use steel material that was produced locally in Texas, supporting the economy in Ellis County.”
Although not a Waxahachie graduate, Hill also has a personal tie to the construction project. His wife is a teacher within Waxahachie ISD, and he has a son who will be among the first graduating class from the new high school.
“The steel we produce at the Midlothian Mill is used in product manufacturing and construction jobs across North America, but with this project in my community, it’s especially gratifying to see Texas steel as part of this school,” Hill said.
Lassetter noted that when completed, approximately 1,500 tons of structural steel would be used in the construction, making this one of the largest steel construction projects in the country over the past several years. He also explained that the steel is an environmentally friendly material.
“Steel is the most recycled material in the world, and I know from my own experience that the structural steel provided by Gerdau is made from as much as 99 percent recycled scrap metal,” Lassetter said. “From a variety of perspectives, including local sourcing of materials and using recycled material in the framework, we’ve been able to provide a structurally sound and ecologically responsible solution for Gallagher Construction Services, the general contractor, and the school district.”
For more information on the project or the organization, visit Friends of Texas Iron and Steel at www.friendsoftxironandsteel.com.