Author Topic: The steel mill -- a local history Part 2  (Read 438 times)

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Tom Rubillo

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The steel mill -- a local history Part 2
« on: March 25, 2022, 04:40:29 PM »
                                                                                                                                 Korf comes to town

     In was in the social and economic environment discussed in Part 1 of this history that Willy Korf came to town.  A West German industrialist, Korf showed up with an offer to build a steel mill on the site of the old Atlantic Coast Lumber Company.  His proposal was greeted with enthusiasm by many.  He proposed creation of 1,000 or more good paying jobs.  What he failed to mention were the dangers of working around molten iron ore, the problems of air and water pollution associated with the smelting of steel.  Nonetheless, anyone with their eyes open to the inevitable consequences of heavy industrialization in the heart of town should have been somewhat skeptical or, at least, cautious about the offer.  Some were.  Apparent blessings often are accompanied by hidden curses.

     One important thing had changed by the time of this proposal.  Newly enacted federal law required that all applicants for employment be considered without regard to race or gender.  Stiff penalties would be imposed on any employer who failed to follow this mandate.  The requirement was to be immediate.  There was no allowance for change by "all deliberate speed" as had been permitted to this told that schools had to be fully and fairly integrated and funded so that equal opportunity would be available to all.  A federal mandate of fairness in employment in effect, blue collar workers -- black and white -- eagerly lined up for jobs.  A relatively few women were employed as office workers.  Men with strong backs got laboring jobs.  White guys managed the plant and got much higher pay.

     There was one small snag, however.  Korf could not build his mill in the center of town without the approval of local government.  Those wheels had to be greased.  Some opined that the site was all wrong.  The creek that ran though the middle of the proposed site served as a natural drain for storm water that fell around a large area north, east and west of the site.  Rain water flowed, by the force of gravity, into the Sampit River through that creek.  Kids played and fished there too.

     To ease these concerns Korf offered to build a reinforced canal in the creek bed to accommodate drainage and grant the city an easement through the property to ensure that there would be no flooding problems.  To assure everyone that the proposed mill would not adversely affect the quality of life in town, he invited local leaders to tour an existing facility he owned in West Germany and report back to their constituents how neatly, cleanly and unoffensively unoffensive that plant was run.

     A delegation of local leaders and opinion makers and their spouses were flown to West Germany at Korf's expense.  Once there, they checked into a very nice hotel, were wined and dined and given a few days to recover from jet lag.  Some reportedly took advantage of the opportunity to do a little sightseeing and shopping.  With everyone thus relaxed, the delegation was taken on an evening river cruse to look at Korf's brightly lit steel mill, albeit from a distance.  Everyone enjoyed the evening air and, of course, a few more drinks.

     On returning home, the now quite satisfied community leaders reported that both the steel mill they saw and the environment around it were neat, clean and orderly.  They assured skeptics that the presence of a modern steel mill in the heart of the community would not harm anyone but, instead, would provide a healthy shot in the economic arm for the entire community.  What they did not know was that the mill they were shown was shut down for maintenance.  That meant that furnaces were not operating, smokestacks were not belching dust, smoke and soot, and the glace of electric lights blazing at the site at night had obscured their vision.  These facts -- plus alcohol -- explained why everything seemed to nice.  Put another way, Georgetown's elites had been bamboozled by Korf.





Tom Rubillo

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Re: The steel mill -- a local history Part 2
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2022, 01:04:45 PM »
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