Several union members on the Geneva Advisory Board may not be happy with the board's decision to go ahead with a study of economic issues in Utah County, but that is because they have not really understood the issue, said board member Malcolm Beck.
"They have not been involved in the issue down the road and information has not filtered down to them since they are newly elected," Beck said. "Ninety-nine percent of the workers at Geneva are pleased with the proposal, and that is my position."Beck, a retired Geneva Steel worker himself, said, "I have no problem with the proposal. I belonged to the same union."
The objective of the proposal is to help identify economic alternatives and steps that could be taken to establish a more stable economy in the county. Support for such a study arose when it appeared that the plant would close down permanently after a labor dispute idled the plant for almost a year.
Since then, Basic Manufacturing and Technologies of Utah bought the steel mill and opened it as Geneva Steel. The mill has been in operation for almost a year.
The two United Steelworkers union members opposed the proposal because they thought bids for the study should have been taken, as the money being used is mostly taxpayer money.
They were also concerned that the study was directed at Geneva and thought it needed to be more broad.
But Beck said, "I think they really came to the conclusion after it surfaced from headquarters in Pittsburgh."
The proposal, presented to the Mountainland Association of Governments and the Geneva Advisory Board, continues a study done by Hatch and Associates. That study looked at future possibilities for Geneva Steel and the new industries indirectly related to the steel mill.
The Hatch and Associates study, titled "Geneva Steel Feasibility and Strategy Grant," was funded by a grant obtained by the Mountainland Association of Governments.
The new proposal, made by Westcorp Associates of Salt Lake City, would use the remaining funds, which total about $160,000.
Beck said the advisory board was not required to ask for bids. Instead the group interviewed various consulting firms.
"By asking for a proposal, we were doing the same thing (as calling for bids) when we picked out the company," Beck said. "We gave them guidelines and they submitted a proposal."
He said he is confident Westcorp can do the work and is qualified. The board discussed the matter for an hour and a half last month and decided that the Westcorp proposal would accomplish the purpose of the grant.
In order to qualify for the remaining grant money, the money must be allocated and the study must be completed, accepted and adopted by the executive committee of the Mountainland Association of Governments by Dec. 31, Beck said.
The Westcorp proposal states that many things could be done to make better use of facilities at Geneva, which would in turn encourage the development of related industries in the valley.
The proposal points out that the structural mill and the foundry are idle and the laboratory and machine shop are under-used. Geneva Steel is already in the process of reopening its foundry and has recently hired about 20 people to begin bringing that facility into full operation.
Geneva Steel has also been busy recruiting other industries to build facilities next to the plant. Chris Cannon, a partner and brother to Joe Cannon, president of Geneva Steel, is president of the Geneva Development Division. He directs the company's program to expand steel markets in the area.
But even though Geneva is doing its part to build up the county's economy, Beck said the study is still needed to look at further ways to strengthen economic growth and ways to stabilize it in the county.
"The study will be good for all industries and economic groups in Utah County because it will be another report they can use to sell the county in the marketplace."
Among other things, the study will focus on ways to retain and expand existing basic manufacturing, what new industries or companies would likely develop in or expand to Utah Valley, and whether a business "incubator" would be feasible.