As Cost Of Steel Goes Up, Louisiana's Industrial Construction Projects Could Take A Hit

Mar 12, 2018

The Trump Administration is placing a tariff — or tax — on imported steel and aluminum in an effort to bolster U.S. manufacturing.

The price of imported steel will go up by 25 percent, which means construction costs will go up, too. 

"Right now you’re paying $100-a-ton for the steel. Well now you’re going to have to pay $125-a-ton for the steel," says economist Loren Scott.

Scott says that could harm Louisiana’s economy, especially industrial construction.

There's nearly a $100-billion worth of planned projects in the state. And building these projects — like chemical plants, or liquefied natural gas facilities — requires a lot of steel.

"There's a concern that some of them may say, 'wait a minute, we were making the decision to build based on the price of steel we could get in the world market. Now you're saying those steel prices will be a lot higher,'" explains Scott.

That higher price could lead companies to reconsider building or expanding their facility.

The majority of these projects are concentrated in Lake Charles. Congressman Clay Higgins represents that area in Washington. He's worried the tariff interferes with major projects already underway — changing the rules in the middle of the game.

"We can breathe life back into the steel industry in America," he says, "while at the same time not injuring ongoing projects that call for imported steel."

And with southwest Louisiana experiencing a boom in industrial construction, there's a lot at stake.

"There's a tremendous difference between Louisiana’s interest in this thing and how we can be impacted as compared to many other states," says Higgins. 

The tariff is set to go into effect later this month.