Illinois Steel workers ‘ecstatic’ Granite City Works back open, praise growing economy

GRANITE CITY (Illinois News Network) – Steel workers who are back at work in Granite City hope President Donald Trump’s opponents will see the economic benefits from his policies.

Trump championed the reopening of a steel plant in Granite City Thursday. During a nearly hour-long speech in front of employees, Trump was glowing about the resurgence of Granite City Works as a testament to a growing U.S. economy.

“Today the blast furnace here in Granite City is blazing bright, workers are back on the job, and we are once again pouring new american steel into the spine of our country,” Trump said.

Dave Fohney from Collinsville worked at Granite City Works for over 25 years and was devastated to get a pink slip in 2015, when the plant shuttered.

“It was devastating going along in a career, you know you plan for everything but then life changes on you,” Fohney said.

He said now it’s back open people are ecstatic and “it’s a great life.”

“I want my kids to work here because they have a chance at a good life,” Fohney said. “Great benefits, it’s the American dream where you can have a job and actually afford some of the better things in life.”

Around 800 employees were hired back on at Granite City Works following Trump’s announced tariffs on foreign steel. Hundreds more are expected to be hired in the months ahead.

Just a few blocks from Trump’s speech were protesters with an inflatable chicken.

Now working for the reopened plant, Dan Lallement said his message to protesters is to look at the economy.

“You look at the economy everywhere,” Lallement said. “And I understand you can’t find someone that you support a hundred percent on everything. You have to pick and choose your battles.”

Other employees said they’ve seen nothing but positive economic benefits in the area from the plant reopening, hiring back 800 employees. With the restarting of another blast furnace later this year, hundreds more are expected to be hired.

Jim Hudson, owner of Jim’s Pawn and Jewelry in Granite City, has been in business for almost 30 years.

“People were less likely to spend money … it hurt a lot of middle income families,” Hudson said of the mill closing a few years ago.

After the steel mill announced its expansion and that it was hiring people, Hudson said it’s helped.

“People are more likely to spend money, it’s all about money, isn’t that what the whole thing is for?” he said.

On Trump’s visit to the community, Hudson said:

“I think it’s awesome. The last time a president was here I played the tuba for him in the high school band, 1981 for Jimmy Carter.”