Riverdale Mills: Steel tariffs hurting American companies, jobs, seafood

BY Zachary Comeau

Photo | File
Photo | File
Riverdale Mills CEO Jim M. Knott, Jr

At least one Central Massachusetts company is anticipating scaling back its operations after President Donald Trump imposed a 25-percent tariff on steel imports last week.
Riverdale Mills, a Northbridge maker of wire mesh for seafood traps and security fencing, told WBJ three railcars of steel from Canada on Tuesday were burdened with $60,000 in tariffs.
“This type of additional and ongoing production cost increase, along with the current high price of domestic steel, puts the company in jeopardy in ways not anticipated last year,” said company CEO Jim Knott, Jr.
Steel imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union are hit with a 25-percent tariff, and aluminum imports a 10-percent tariff as of May 31 as the Trump Administration continues its efforts to force American companies to use American products. 
The cost to endure the tariffs will damage the company’s business model and make it less competitive in the global marketplace, Knott said.
The price of the tariffs will trickle down to the company’s customers, including fishermen and security and construction workers in the U.S.
The fishing industry, Knott said, will not be able to afford a 25-percent premium for steel.
“Lest we not forget the restaurant owners and consumers who will be impacted with increased lobster prices,” he added. 
Now, domestic steel suppliers will be overburdened with orders due to companies trying to save a buck or two on steel, Knott said.
“At this point, there is no choice but to seek foreign material,” Knott said.
The company has taken steps in recent years to reduce operating costs, including a new combined heat and power system and other efficiency upgrades. Nearly all of the excess steel from the company’s operations is recycled.
However, the company has a vast global operation -- 45 percent of its products are exported. 
The company hopes to operate at its current headcount, but could be forced to make cuts. 
“Without similar tariffs and/or protection on the importation of finished goods, Riverdale Mills will not be able to compete and will lose substantial market share to offshore suppliers,” Knott said.