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A Missouri Company Secures Trade Exemption: 'Now, Let's Make Nails'

Mid Continent Steel & Wire company impacted by tariffs on imported steel.
Mid Continent Steel & Wire

A Missouri nail maker has started to bring back workers now that it does not have to pay a 25% tariff on imported raw material from Mexico. Federal trade officials have granted an exemption on nearly all the foreign steel used by Mid Continent Steel & Wire in Poplar Bluff.

Company officials said it relies on the imports because U.S. producers can’t provide enough steel to meet its needs.

Advisor Jim Glassman said the company approached one of the largest steel companies in the U.S., Nucor, about providing the material and it would only meet roughly 10% of Mid Continent Steel & Wire requirements.

“We weren’t surprised at that,” he said, while adding, “They’ve got other things they want to produce.”

The fee was put in place last June as a strategy by the Trump administration to protect U.S. manufacturing. But that backfired when it came to the southeast Missouri employer.

The tariff applied to the imported raw material but not foreign-produced nails.

“Our foreign competitors from countries like Turkey and China and Oman are able to send nails into this country without any tariff on them at all,” Glassman said. “So that puts the U.S. companies at a terrible disadvantage.”

He admitted that it was extremely tough to stay in business.

“The company was losing millions of dollars a month, but management felt we’re going to try to keep this thing going,” he said.

Mid Continent Steel & Wire will get a refund for the millions of dollars in tariffs it paid since last June.

It had more than 500 workers before the fee went into effect. The company went down to fewer than 300 employees but has been bringing some of them back over the past few weeks in anticipation of a favorable trade decision.

In a release issued by the company, Operations General Manager Chris Pratt said, “We never gave up hope,” while adding, “Now, let’s make nails.”

The company plans to run a full-page ad Friday in the local Poplar Bluff newspaper to thank public officials for their support and efforts to secure the exemption.

Follow Wayne Pratt on Twitter: @WayneRadio

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Wayne Pratt is the Broadcast Operations Manager and former morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.