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Robert Trigaux

Tampa's Gerdau Ameristeel raising its profile



Mariolonghiameristeel Wake up and good morning. Tampa's Gerdau Ameristeel has been busy lately trying to raise its local profile with some sports-related advertising while dealing, like all companies, with a bad economy.

With the Super Bowl playing in Tampa several weeks ago, the normally low- profile company became an official sponsor of the Tampa Bay Super Bowl Host Committee volunteer program.

Supporting the global Super Bowl event in its corporate headquarters' hometown is part of the company's community involvement vision, CEO Mario Longhi explained. (Photo of Longhi by Ken Helle of the St. Petersburg Times.)

The company also reported a quarterly loss this week reflecting tough times in global construction, the market that Gerdau Ameristeel supplies with steel products.

Gerdau Ameristeel, one of Tampa Bay's major corporations, was formed by the combination of a number of steel companies based in Brazil, the United States and Canada. It reported a $1.3 billion loss in the fourth quarter, mostly as a result of writedowns, and experienced a 17.6 percent drop in sales compared with the year-earlier period. Gerdau Ameristeel said that demand for its products decreased significantly in the last three months of 2008 due to the global liquidity crisis and its impact on global economic stability. As the chart indicates, Gerdau Ameristeel's stock has suffered, like most companies, by falling from a 52-week high of almost $20 a share to trade lately near $5.50.

Gerdauchart_2 This week also happened to be the gathering of the 20th Annual Tampa Steel Conference, where steel makers debated how much the federal stimulus package will affect the steel industry. They did agree that it is intended to "light a spark" rather than effect a rescue, according to coverage in the Journal of Commerce. The story quotes Gerdau Ameristeel CEO Mario Longhi, who estimates that $70 billion of the $800 billion stimulus package will be relevant to the steel industry. That includes about $29 billion for transportation infrastructure, $13.5 billion for building and repairing federal buildings and public infrastructure, $18 billion for water-related projects and about $10 billion for rail and mass transit.

But, he added, this falls far short of the annual $225 billion that the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission says would be necessary for each of the next 50 years to ensure that U.S. infrastructure in these categories keeps up with estimated capacity and maintenance needs.

Complex stuff. And yet here is Gerdau Ameristeel also marketing itself to the Tampa Bay masses during the Super Bowl. The company, the Tampa Tribune reported, even commissioned a series of pro football-oriented sculptures using material recycled from Miami's Orange Bowl for an interactive Super Bowl display and online charity auction.

Nice to see a larger, headquartered corporation getting more involved in the community. In these tougher times, Tampa Bay needs all the help it can get.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:24am]


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