Rolled steel

Mark Echols checks rolls of steel that will be used in the creation of metal roofing at Echols Metal in Ohatchee. 

Sid Echols has seen steel prices rise already.

Costs for the co-owner of Echols Metal, an Ohatchee-based metal-roofing maker, have ticked up in the week since President Donald Trump announced his plan to add tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

Echols is less than enthused about how high steel prices might rise if the tariffs are actually enacted.

“We’ve seen escalating prices already,” Echols said. “We’ll do the best we can to absorb costs ... but this is going to affect the local economy and increase pricing to the consumer.”

Trump proposed the import tariffs — 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum — as a way to protect U.S. metal producers. The plan, however, has drawn ire from manufacturing industries across the U.S., and east Central Alabama is no exception. From roofing to automakers, area manufacturers who use aluminum and steel say the tariffs will increase their costs for customers and possibly slow production as demand for U.S. steel jumps.

Echols said steel prices have risen already in anticipation of the new tariffs. Echols said he didn’t know yet how the price jumps might affect employment at his company, which has 20 workers and serves customers across the state.

Echols said he was also worried about how the tariffs might slow production of steel, and therefore, slow his company’s manufacturing.

“The capacity to produce is going to be stretched because there aren’t many U.S. steel producers anymore,” Echols said. “Any imported steel orders have probably been canceled, meaning U.S. producers will have to up their capacity, and that could take months.”

Ken Griffey, owner of Bear & Son Cutlery in Jacksonville, said he was very concerned about how the tariffs could affect his company, which uses steel to produce many types of knives.

“It’ll just make things more expensive and it’s just going to cost more for customers,” Griffey said. “We’ve already seen prices go up.”

Griffey said he always tries to buy U.S. steel, but the tariffs could make that harder.

“There’s not enough manufacturers left to keep up,” Griffey said of steel makers. “With the tariffs, more people are gonna go back to buying U.S. steel, and that’ll make it harder to get.”

Japanese automaker Honda, which has a plant in Lincoln, is also concerned about the tariffs. Besides Honda, east central Alabama also has many people who work for auto suppliers to the company, some of which also use steel and aluminum.

“Honda extensively sources its steel and aluminum from U.S. suppliers, however, tariffs imposed on imported steel and aluminum would raise prices on both domestic and imported products, thus causing an unnecessary financial burden on our customers,” Chris Abbruzzese, spokesman for Honda North America, wrote in an email to Consolidated News Service.

Abbruzzese also wrote that he didn’t have information on how Honda thought the tariffs might affect operations at the plant in Lincoln.

David White, executive vice president of supply management at New Flyer, a Canada-based transit bus maker that has a plant in Anniston, wrote in an email to Consolidated News Service, that his company expects some price jumps because of the tariffs.

“New Flyer buses are built predominantly with U.S. steel and aluminum products,” White said. “However, if tariffs are imposed on steel and aluminum imports into the U.S. at the levels being proposed, we would expect parallel U.S. market price increases to these commodities.”

White wrote that New Flyer didn’t expect the price jumps to affect the Anniston plant’s operations, though.

“While steel and aluminum are key inputs for the frame and components of our buses, price increases at the commodity level regularly fluctuate without significant impact to our manufacturing operations,” White wrote.

Besides auto manufacturing, the defense industry, which uses plenty of steel and aluminum, also has a strong presence in east central Alabama.

Spokespeople for defense contractors Honeywell and General Dynamics Land Systems, both of which have facilities in Anniston, declined to comment on the tariffs.

Kelly Golden, spokeswoman for defense contractor BAE Systems, also with operations in Anniston, said that the potential effect from tariffs was unknown.

“Before we can understand the potential impact of tariffs on steel and aluminum from the U.S. government, we would need to review the details of any changes in trade policy to better understand if they could impact BAE Systems, our broad U.S. supplier base and our customers,” Golden said.

Bill Reinsch, senior advisor for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, said the defense industry would likely be affected by the tariffs.

“The defense industry doesn’t buy a lot of steel directly, but it buys a lot of stuff with steel in it,” Reinsch said. “The tariffs will almost certainly raise the price of steel ... so for defense, that means increases in per unit costs.”


Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.