Founded in 1969, German-owned Georgetown Steel Company was among the earliest foreign-owned companies wooed to South Carolina as part of a campaign to attract foreign investment. A subsidiary of Korf Industries of West Germany, Georgetown Steel provided hundreds of well-paying jobs to the economically depressed city, although pollution from the plant would be a recurring concern throughout its existence. Located in downtown Georgetown, the facility was designed for an annual production of 250,000 tons of reinforcing bars, using powerful electric furnaces. This was the first commercial direct reduction plant ever built. Using temperatures as high as 1500o F, direct reduction produced a high-quality iron free of unwanted impurities, which then became the key ingredient in steel. The Georgetown plant’s two electric arc furnaces had a production capacity of 83,333 tons per month, and its rolling mill possessed an annual capacity of 792,000 tons. In 1992 the facility established the world record casting sequence: 24,580 tons in 353 hours and 55 minutes.
By the start of the twenty-first century, rising energy prices, increased costs for raw materials, and weak demand had taken a toll on Georgetown Steel. Owners filed for bankruptcy in October 2003, laying off the plant’s 541 employees.
Cobb, James C. The Selling of the South: The Southern Crusade for Industrial Development, 1936–1980. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982.