David Houck worked for Big Steel all his life -- until the mill shut down. . .
David Houck worked for Big Steel all his life -- until the mill shut down. . .
From the end of Ohio Avenue, on a rise overlooking the old steel mills, the village of McDonald, Ohio, looks quiet. Not deserted: The homes of the steelworkers in this industrial suburb of Youngstown are still pristine, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church still draws housewives to its 8 a.m. Mass. But signs of economic vitality are rare. Down the street, Austin's and the Starlight Lounge no longer fill with thirsty workers at the end of each shift. The union hall -- Local 1307, United Steelworkers of America -- is empty. "USS Industrial Park . . . Now Leasing" announces a billboard at the entrance to the former McDonald Works of United States Steel Corp. " 1,100,000 Sq. Ft. Buildings on 172 Acres." Beyond the sign sprawl the hulking structures of dark brick with corrugated steel roofs, surrounded by endless parking lots that, even on a weekday morning, remain virtually empty.
The Youngstown region's quietude--the shut-down factories, the area's 40,000 or 50,000 unemployed steelworkers -- has, in the past several years, become a sign of the times, a national symbol for the decline of American heavy industry. It has also become the focus for flurries of rhetoric and political activity. Candidates for the Presidency speak stirringly of the neglected responsibilities of big business and big government, of the need to protect and revitalize the domestic steel industry. Civic groups petition corporations and public leaders; unions decry the inaction. All demand that steel be returned to its position of preeminence -- and that Youngstown, rooted in the steel industry, flourish with steel once more.
David Houck is a symbol of a different sort. A steel man for 29 years, a witness to the closing of the Campbell, Struthers, and Brier Hill works of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co., and the Ohio and McDonald works of U.S. Steel, Houck is going about what is now an unusual business in Youngstown: making steel. The company he conceived of and more or less willed into existence, McDonald Steel Corp., has been in operation for close to three years now. In that time it has expanded from one mill to two, put well over 100 people back to work, and this year should do some $28 million in sales.
But if McDonald is a symbol of Youngstown's potential for the future, it is a future that will look quite different from the recent past. For one thing, the modest achievements of Houck and other Youngstown residents in recent years have not been the product of placards, or community groups, or campaigning politicians, or federal funds. Houck and two local venture capitalists, a handful of investors, and a host of enterprising steelworkers willing to live with concessions created McDonald Steel through a kind of hands-on cooperation that has been rare in this embittered economic no-man's-land. For another, no one involved in the venture -- least of all Houck, who probably knows the difficulties best of all -- proposes reviving the old mills in all their overbearing glory. The vision of a revitalized Youngstown that is emerging from the work of people like Houck and his backers rests on a hundred small ventures taking the economic place of every silent giant.
"What we're talking about is going back to the free enterprise system," observes Houck. "For 200 years, it worked pretty damn well."
Seated in his office, a framed sampler reading "Ain't it fun to be in business for yourself" hanging on a nearby wall, Houck is explaining his provenance. He hails, it seems, from a Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. town called Aliquippa, in western Pennsylvania. It further seems that the town is named after an Indian queen for whom George Washington is said to have felt a certain fondness. "Now," he concludes with a smile, "you'll never forget Aliquippa."
You are also, thanks to the offbeat story, less likely to forget David Houck. At 55, he shows the wear and tear of the battle to reopen McDonald: He is overweight, with silver-white hair, an aging executive. His voice and enthusiasm, however, take a good 10 years off his age. When the steam whistle sounds in the plant adjacent to his office, signaling that 2,000 degree F steel is about to move on the 14" mill, his flesh and soul somehow seem revived. He listens, and sits up a bit straighter. Then he resumes the story of how, reluctantly, he became not only an entrepreneur, but a symbol of hope for Youngstown.
In 1947, when he was 17, Houck went to work in a Jones & Laughlin pipe mill. Later, after earning an industrial engineering degree, he joined U.S. Steel in Youngstown. "I never questioned what I should go into, he recalls. everybody in my town had worked in steel." His other reasons were eaually conventional: The industry offered an excellent training program, good money, and job security.
At the time, of course, steel was an unchallenged giant. U.S. mills were churning out metal for skyscrapers and automobile assembly lines and were contributing to the rebuilding of Germany and Japan. Growth continued right up to 1973, when the industry hit its peak of 151 million net tons of raw steel a year. Back then, better than half a million people worked in steel, and the industry earned a 4.5% net return on sales of $40 billion. Imported steel accounted for only 12% of the market.
Since mid- 1974, the numbers have been all downhill, with nearly 500 steel facilities closed in the interim. Last year, production dropped to 85 million net tons, employment sank to under a quarter of a million, and the industry suffered losses of 7.4% on sales of $48 billion. Imports--from Europe, Japan, Canada, Korea, Brazil, Mexico -- accounted for 21% of the market, and were growing. A few domestic minimills, producing steel from scrap metal with electric furnaces and continuous casters, have kept the news from being entirely bleak; these mills now account for some 20% of all U.S. steel production. But the era of the large, integrated steel mill has, for a decade, been coming to an end.
In 1955, when Houck arrived in Youngstown to work at the Ohio and McDonald works, the barroom talk was upbeat, the atmosphere one of invincibility. Youngstown and the other towns that lined the Mahoning Valley -- McDonald, Girard, Campliell, Struthers -- were 20 miles of huge mills, mountains of coke, thundering blast furnaces, tangles of railroad track flanking the meandering river. Some individual buildings were a mile long. If there was any indication of hard times to come, it was betrayed only by the age of the buildings: The Ohio Works, which produced raw steel, dated from 1895, and the McDonald Works, which milled steel into special shapes, from 1917. "My impression," recalls Houck, "was that they were marginal operations, but that we'd spend some money and modernize them. We never did. Still, I never imagined that I'd see them shut down."
As the years passed, declining output led to layoffs and partial shutdowns. Republic Steel Corp. closed its doors piecemeal, unobtrusively, but rumors flew. Then, on September 19, 1977 -- "Black Monday" in Youngstown -- the fragments of foreboding finally coalesced into an awful reality: Youngstown Sheet & Tube announced that it was suspending its operations, throwing some 5,500 people out of work. At U.S. Steel, the mood grew significantly more somber. Already the work force at McDonald Works, where Houck was then a superintendent, had shrunk by half, to 1,750. Only 5 of the original 11 mills on the 372-acre site were still operating.
William H. Kirwan, general superintendent of the Youngstown district for U.S. Steel asked Houck to draft a plan giving the region a reprieve. For four months, as chairman of a Save the District" committee, Houck studied the company's strengths, weaknesses, and prospects. Then he offered his report. The Ohio Works should be shut down, he recommended. An electric furnace and caster should be installed at McDonald to feed its mills. The cost would be some $208 million. But it was an investment that would, he believed, ensure the district's survival and ongoing profitability.
His report went up to corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh in mid-November 1979. About a week later, November 19 -- a second Black Monday -- U.S. Steel revealed that it, too, was abandoning Youngstown. Kirwan and Houck's valiant attempt had not swayed the company from its foregone conclusion: It could no longer justify mounting losses or additional capital outlays. "What bothered us most," says Raymond Fowler, then an acting foreman with 14 years' experience, "was the way it was announced; it came over the radio at noon, and circulated through the plant." Fowler, married, the father of three young children, would soon be out of work.
"It was a devastating period of time," Houck remembers. Rallies, workers occupying U.S. Steel's local headquarters, suicide counseling programs, the Ecumenical Coalition of the Mahoning Valley, a group rnade up of steelworkers, clergymen, and concerned citizens -- it was a swirling maelstrom of activity. Houck, given eight months to produce heavy backup inventories for customers and then to mothball the mills, found himself torn between alternatives. He followed the emotion-laden maneuverings of the coalition, which incorporated as Community Steel Corp. and announced that it would seek up to the legal maximum of $100 million in federally guaranteed loans to reopen the facilities. He entertained the opportunity of a transfer to another plant. And he began to wonder whether he, himself, could resurrect the McDonald Works. "I would never, voluntarily, have said, 'I've had it, I'm going to quit this company and start my own,' " he notes. "After all, I'd come to U.S. Steel for the security -- give me my security blanket, my benefits, and protect me for the rest of my life."
Still, Houck had spent four months demonstrating that, with cutbacks in labor, increased productivity, and a focusing of its product line, the mill could be saved. He went back to his numbers and played with them. Imagine, he thought, a start-up work force of 75. No new furnace and caster. Not five mills -- that was too ambitious -- just one to begin with, the 14" mill the most profitable. A leasing arrangement rather than an outright purchase. And he came up with a brand-new number. It could happen, he figured, for $3 million. Within a few weeks, he had transformed elements of the "Save the District" report into a business plan.
As his men prepared for the final closing of the mills -- draining water lines, greasing bearings, turning heaters on massive electric motors to keep them dry--Houck encouraged them. "I told them, 'Don't break the windows, don't smash up the place; we're going to start it back up again.' " Before the last crew left, in July of 1980, he says, "They swept the floor . . . and it stayed that way for a year and a half." Houck, who stayed on to ensure that remaining orders were shipped, felt very much alone. "When you walk through that warehouse," he says, "and all you hear is the shutters swinging in the breeze and the pigeons cooing, it's very desolate."
Houck took his plan to a U.S. congressman from Ohio. That got him nowhere: "He practically threw me out of his office. He was mad at U.S. Steel for pulling the pins out from under the public." Then he visited the realty division of U.S. Steel, also without success. The corporation's managers had no qualms about someone else using its property; they had sold or leased other shuttered sites. But they were leery of dealing with someone who was still an employee. "They said, 'We don't want to talk to you, a superintendent, any more than we want to talk to those union guys in Community Steel. Climb into bed with somebody that can negotiate as a businessman.' " The itinerary of disappointment led eventually to The Bedroom Cocktail Lounge, Houck's favorite watering hole in Youngstown. "A friend came in, we got to talking, and I asked him, 'How do I go about raising $3 million?' "
That simple question yielded an introduction to David Tod, a scion of one of the oldest and most affluent steel families in the valley. The Tods, who started Brier Hill Iron & Steel Co., which merged into Youngstown Sheet & Tube, had become major stockholders in that company. David Tod, a business and mechanical engineering graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, worked for several steel companies before becoming an investment banker. Eventually, almost inadvertently, he created Torent Inc., Youngstown's only venture capital firm, with attorney Daniel B. Roth.
It was not love at first sight. "I really wasn't too interested," Tod recalls of his first meeting with Houck. "Politely cool, is how Houck describes his reception.
The coolness, however, didn't last long. When they studied the proposal, both Tod and Roth were impressed by Houck's solid numbers, and by his projections for the 14" mill. The McDonald Works was unusual in that it made specialty shapes--everything from simple "rounds" used in construction to intricately filigreed forms used in the manufacture of truck-wheel rims. The 14" mill (the dimension, roughly speaking, sets a limit on the thickness of the steel it can process) could itself produce 108 different shapes. Only one other mill in the United States -- the Bar, Rod & Wire Division of Bethlehem Steel Corp, headquartered in Johnstown, Pa. -- was equally adept. When it was part of U.S. Steel, the 14" mill had supplied 30 customers, many of them unable to get what they needed anywhere else.
What impressed the two investors most, however, was Houck's willingness to stay in lieu of a transfer. "I figured that if he was willing to bet his career, then we should be willing to bet some money," Roth says.
Tod and Roth presented Houck's plan for McDonald Steel Corp. to Torent's board. "They thought we were crazy," notes Roth. "Everyone in Youngstown was so depressed and down on steel that the idea of opening up a mill didn't seem to make sense." Even when the board acquiesced, potential investors were wary. "It was a very hard sell," admits Tod. While Roth and Tod were busy finding investors, another problem arose. When Community Steel learned what was going on, they filed suit in U.S. District Court to stop the transaction. "It was more heart than heads," explains Houck. "They really wanted to reopen everything. "
Community Steel, which as the Ecumenical Coalition had once discussed resurrecting the Campbell Works of Youngstown Sheet & Tube, was in fact hoping to implement all the basic components of Kirwan and Houck's "Save the District' proposal. "We wanted to carry out the entire plan " recalls Staughton Lynd, a legal services attorney who represented Community Steel. The mills would be reopened and supplied with steel from Ohio Works until a new electric furnace and a continuous caster could be installed at McDonald. Then Ohio Works would lie closed. Community Steel, in essence, certified the soundness of Houck's approach, but was disappointed by his limited aspirations. "There was no doubt," explains Lynd, "that the 14" mill was the gem of the McDonald collection, and we felt that if it was withdrawn from the package, it might make any larger reopening impossible." During the ensuing months of tense confrontation, Houck mailed newspaper clips to old customers, keeping them informed of developments.
The dispute was resolved when Community Steel learned that its request for a $100-million loan guarantee hadn't been approved by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) of the Commerce Department. "The EDA was very close to the steel industry," says Lynd, "and they may have been less than enthusiastic about another competitor in a poor market -- we really don't know." Realizing that 75 jobs were better than none, Community Steel then sided with Houck, demanding more concessions from U.S. Steel, among them the right of first refusal on additional mills. The lease that was signed incorporated the group's suggestions; it also gave U.S. Steel 30% of any profits in addition to a flat fee.
While the legal difficulties were unfolding and being resolved, Torent's search for backers finally paid off. Commercial Shearing Inc., a local manufacturer, made a major investment. That got things rolling, and The Tamarkin Co., the owner of Valu King supermarkets, soon followed. "They said that if someone didn't soon begin creating jobs in the Mahoning Valley, there'd be nobody left to buy groceries," recalls Houck.
"Look," explains Tamarkin vice-president Nathan H. Monus, "when you get involved in any business venture, it's bound to be a gamble. But we were trying to keep this community alive, and we were impressed by the quality of the people involved. They knew enough about steel to convince us that it could work." Now, adds Monus, Tamarkin is "very pleased" with McDonald, both as an investment and as a generator of jobs.
Thanks to such backers, Torent raised $1.5 million in equity and arranged a $1.5-million line of credit. Then negotiations with U.S. Steel began in earnest.
"This was my office when I was superintendent," says Houck, "same desk, same chair. One day, I was U.S. Steel, the next day, on September 1, 1980, I was McDonald Steel." Although he owns only 2% of McDonald's stock, Houck isn't complaining. "I didn't do this for the salary, or for the investment," he says simply. "I did it because I wanted to see a dream happen."
Still, other obstacles remained. When Houck went out to solicit business, he found abandoned clients unreceptive. "Their attitude was, 'U.S. Steel shut it down, and you were part of that. You screwed me up. Why should I give you a break?' " Another response, equally unhelpful, was, "When you start up, I'll come by, watch you run, and then I'll give you an order." Specialty steel mills, Houck explains, do not roll without orders in hand. Houck countered with condolences and high-powered visits from a group of people -- himself, his metallurgist, and his product designer. "We won people over with our team effort," he says. The fact that customers were eager to have another dependable supplier also helped. Slowly, an order book materialized.
"I was impressed by the fact that here was a guy who was going into business for himself, trying to do something that a larger company had failed at," recalls Gary L. Bell, divisional purchasing agent for Firestone Tire & Rubber Co.'s Steel Products Division. The division had purchased special shapes of steel for truck-tire rims from McDonald Works in the past; when McDonald closed, it bought these items from three offshore suppliers. Bell, new to his position, harbored no animosity. "From a quality and cost standpoint, it was the best thing for Firestone," he avers.
The only major hurdle left was the mill itself, mothballed with care but desperately in need of renovation. As part of its agreement with McDonald, U.S. Steel committed close to $3 million to the project: new paint, new pipes, and one undertaking that at times seemed comparable to relocating the Cheops pyramid. McDonald Works had operated on special, 25-cycle power generated at Ohio Works, which had already been demolished. To get the mill back on line, Houck had to transplant a huge 15,000-kilowatt generator and an even larger 25,000-horsepower motor to the mill. To support them, he had to buttress the floor of the plant with 800 cubic yards of concrete.
Workers, all formerly with the McDonald Works (about one-third were collecting U.S. Steel pensions), were recalled, and, on December 1, 1981, the 14" mill rolled steel once more. Two weeks later, Houck, Tod, Roth, local officials, mill workers and a gaggle of press gathered for the official opening. That morning, as he took reporters through the mill, Houck was unable to show them glistening billets being crunched into shape by 1,200-pound rollers; his crew couldn't get the generator going. At the reopening ceremony, standing in front of a huge sign that read " 14" Shape Mill Rolls Again," Houck confided the awful truth. Then, as though providence had graciously relented, the steam whistle sounded, signaling that the mill was about to start up.
It was a day of promise for Youngstown, the television commentators reported: Steel with a capital "S" had returned to the Mahoning Valley. Houck, as proud and hopeful as anyone present, knew better. Big Steel had departed forever. "The industry had retrenched, and was going to continue to do so," he explains, and the attempts to save small pieces of the giant faced an uncertain future. That future, moreover, shouldn't look like the past--not unless the Mahoning Valley wanted to be as dependent on one industry as it had been before. "If you see that parking lot full," observes Houck, "you'll know that I've failed." Huge plants and huge work forces have no place in scaled-back times; fewer bodies, more productivity, and a carefully culled product line are the orders of the day. "Skinny-down," says Houck "Skinny-down."
Today, Houck's favorite phrase--"skinny-down" -- is the rule at McDonald Steel. When he was drawing up his "Save the District" report, it quickly became apparent that only drastic cuts and radical new efficiencies would enable him to hold on to this piece of history. "Productivity used to be a dirty word here," he concedes.
Then, he presided over 32 managers, who oversaw a work force of 800; those 800 men and women operated four mills, three shifts a day, while another 600 or 700 staffed the offices. "Then there was the corporate structure," Houck explains. "A division manager here at the plant, a general superintendent at Ohio Works, a manager of steel operations in Pittsburgh, an administrative vice-president . . . all of that corporate overhead and confusion.
"When you wanted $10,000 to buy a widget," he continues, "they'd want an engineering study, then a review by accounting. . . . It was an atmosphere that was conducive to not doing things." There was also the burden of a Sears-catalog-size collection of work rules that had evolved over the years, the result of management's acquiescence to union demands. "Each man knew all of the things that he didn't have to do," says Houck. And there was the ordeal of labor negotiations every three years -- all of this transpiring in a context of growing apprehension about the future of the steel industry itself.
Today, when he talks about structure, Houck refers to himself as "a president without a vice-president." It is a phrase that says much about the new company. His office staff numbers a lean eight; there are four superintendents. Now that a second mill, the 8" mill, has been reactivated, the work force totals 126, running one shift a day. "In the old days, we had a department for everything," Houck notes with a slight grimace, "production scheduling, order entry, advertising, sales. We had an entire floor of billing girls who worked round the clock." Now there are individuals, innovation, and involvement. Houck does most of the selling himself, and relies on outside vendors whenever he can. "We've created a helluva lot of spinoff jobs -- maybe 300," he beams.
That, in fact, is one of the accomplishments of which he is most proud: job creation in the new small companies that he, Tod, Roth, and the others believe must ultimately replace Big Steel in Youngstown's economy.
"Jerry [Sturdevant], a retired bricklayer from U.S. Steel, came to me and said, 'Would you be interested in hiring us if we formed a little bricklaying company?" Houck explains. "It's a beautiful service for us. I don't have a bricklaying crew standing around stacking bricks, waiting for work, and Jerry's willing to come in on weekends to reline the furnaces when they're not in use." S&R Contractors Co. is already a viable entity, picking up some outside jobs in addition to its work for McDonald.
McDonald also makes use of outside help for environmental testing and diesel repairs. "Before, we had an entire diesel shop staffed with people," Houck points out. "Now, we have one ex-diesel mechanic who works on an as-needed basis Contracting out -- for everything from preventive maintenance to marketing -- is a tremendous advantage I have over U.S. Steel."
But McDonald's biggest advantage may be the men and women who work there. "When we hired people," explains Houck, "we said, 'You'll be expected to do whatever's necessary to get the product made and shipped.' " Unemployed steelworkers, many of whom had grown uneasy with the increasingly bureaucratic style of U.S. Steel and their own union, were ready to give new ways a chance. Work rules that had accumulated like dust over decades were whisked away "Then, crane operations were handled by the crane department, and you might have to have one operator in each crane. Now, when you need to move something, anybody -- maybe a guy from packaging -- just goes up and runs that crane." Eager to get back to work, some workers voluntarily accepted steps down in status and pay, a virtual impossibility in the old regime.
"Improvements just didn't happen during my 14 years with U.S. Steel," says Raymond Fowler, one of the first rehired. "You knew that you could do things better, by combining two jobs, or by bringing in a machine, but you also knew it wouldn't be done. We've introduced major efficiencies." Fowler, whose father had headed a steel union local for more than 15 years, is unfazed by McDonald's non-union status. "In many ways," Fowler observes, "the union had become like the work rules -- self-serving and political."
Nonunion labor represents a significant saving for the company. While USWA steelworkers average around $23 an hour in salary and benefits, Houck's crew earns only about $8.50 an hour in direct wages, with fringes adding less than $3 more. And while union contracts called for 13-week vacations every fifth year, 4 weeks is the most a McDonald worker will enjoy. On the other side, however, Houck has instituted a profit-sharing plan, and has attempted to make his employees a part of what is happening. In the plant's early days he presided over beer-and-bullshit get-togethers at Austin's Lounge, today, he posts reports on every sales call he makes. When customers visit the plant, they are introduced to mill hands. "If I know the client has been having a problem with packaging, I'll leave him to rap with someone in the warehouse. Now my guy feels important. He knows that he's not just wrapping this stuff for the hell of it."
"We're building better product," says Fowler, "and the attitude is great -- it's a feeling of, yeah, we can do it."
There is apparently little his employees won't do for Houck. For 19 months, they worked a night shift to take advantage of lower electric rates; the $17,000-a-month savings made the difference, during the company's first year of operation, between a loss and a marginal profit. They are also ready to improvise or make do with what is available to help pull McDonald through. "Now, when they tell me they need $10,000 for a new widget, I tell them, 'Ah, come on, can't you do it for $5,000? Go beg, borrow, or steal an old part,' " says Houck.,And sometimes, under the cover of darkness, they do, slipping under the fence that technically separates their property from U.S. Steel's to scrounge a necessary part from an idle mill. "They get it done for $5,000," Houck says with a wink.
For its part, U.S. Steel has proven an understanding and supportive landlord. Possibly looking toward the day when it may lease or sell additional mills to Houck, it has itself done some bartering. "They had two diesel locomotives that they were going to scrap," says Houck. "1 told them, 'Let me have them. I'll use one to provide parts to rebuild the other. Then, when you need cars moved around, I'll do it for you.' " Now McDonald's Number 777, a handsome antique engine whose workaday gray is emblazoned with bright yellow, orange, and red stripes, sits in the warehouse; when he has a spare moment, Houck, long a model railroader, takes it out for a short spin. "It's one of the better perks," he admits.
The commitment and trust between Houck and his employees flow both ways. "I think Houck's a fair guy," says Paul Casey, who had put in 17 years as a bar shearman before U.S. Steel shut McDonald Works down. "I liked it before, but right now, there's a much closer feeling than there's ever been. We're all working for the same goals."
"It's changed," notes his co-worker, Josh Hooks, another recalled veteran. "Now what's best for the company is best for us, too."
When Houck walks the floor, the relationship between employer and employee shows; he gives them a thumbs-up sign of encouragement as he strides between stacks of cooling steel, and no one hesitates to stop him to ask about a pending order or some personal matter. One worker explains the problems he is having in financing a new car, and asks if the company can help. Not now, Houck explains, but he begins to mull the notion of a credit union.
The cooperation has paid off handsomely. Three years ago, McDonald Steel had no customers, no earnings, and, in the minds of many, no future. Today, Houck has managed to recover all of the 14" mill's 30 original customers, has started up the 8" mill, and, last fiscal year, shipped 33,000 tons of steel, earning profits of around $1 million on sales of $20 million. "That 5%," he observes, "is about as good as anybody ever gets in steel." With a lot of other mills operating at a loss, McDonald's margin looks even better by comparison. Houck has also invested in capital improvements -- the rebuilding of a furnace, a new IBM 36 computer for the office--and is now toying with the notion of opening more mills. He even has commissioned a study to determine the right time to buy the property from U.S. Steel. "My consultant thinks we ought to do it right now," he confides, his smile betraying both his pleasure and his disinclination to move so quickly. Big plans, like big steel, are best approached with caution in skinny-down times. "It may happen one-and-a-half years from now," he adds.
Beyond that year and a half? Houck leans back in his old U.S. Steel chair, and indulges what, for him, is a purely rhetorical question. "A full-blown minimill," he finally says. "An electric furnace and caster so that we could start from scrap and go to finished product." It is an expensive option, but one that would end his reliance on the seven outside steel suppliers he currently deals with. "It might be difficult to justify economically, but there's also a psychological significance, a certain romance about molten metal."
The skinny-down executive is, however, uncomfortable with grandiose possibilities. He keeps returning to the stark reality of the huge black-and-white photographs on the wall behind his desk, aerial views of two steel mills near Youngstown. They are his touchstones, his reminder of what is important and of what he hopes to achieve, and he points out detail after detail for his listener.
Two photographs: one of the Ohio Works -- which no longer exists -- and one of the McDonald Works -- which does.