DARLINGTON, S.C. – Nucor Steel-South Carolina in Darlington and its nearly 500 employees celebrated the mill's 50th anniversary on Wednesday with guest speakers and lunch on the grounds.
The anniversary event included remarks by S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster, Nucor Corporation chief executive officer and President John Ferriola and Ray Napolitan, executive vice president of rngineered bar products, Nucor Corporation. S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas presented resolutions from the S.C. General Assembly.
Members of the South Carolina congressional delegation, state senators and representatives attended, along with members of the Darlington County Council and other local officials.
Steve O’Neal has been with Nucor in Darlington almost from the beginning. He will celebrate his 50th anniversary on Nov. 12.
“I have been so blessed,” O’Neal said before the ceremonies began. “I was still in high school when I started. I worked third shift for a few years.”
O’Neal works in the maintenance department.
He said he loves his job.
“I don’t feel deserving. I’ve been blessed. I enjoy it,” he said. “It is amazing, all that we have, the whole process.”
Jim Kizziar, also in maintenance engineering, started work at Nucor in Darlington on Sept. 1, 1970, a little more than a year after it opened.
What has kept Kizziar at Nucor?
“I couldn’t think of anything better out there to do,” he said.
He said Nucor is “very employee oriented.”
He said it is a “pride thing.”
“This really is a special day,” he said. “It is what we have all worked for and where God has taken us.”
He said that at the 25th anniversary celebration, which was similar to this, one of the speakers invited them to take part in the 50th anniversary.
“And now we are here,” he said.
Jim Stanley, an engineer is the same department, has worked for Nucor Steel in Darlington for 46 years.
“It is a great place to work,” he said. “And the opportunities are at your disposal.”
He said the greatest thing about working at Nucor is the teamwork.
“It is a great bunch here,” he said. “It is like a big family.”
All three of them talked about the family atmosphere at Nucor and how they look out for each other.
He said people are motivated to do their best.
Doyle Hopper, vice president and general manager of Nucor Steel South Carolina, said they have so much to be thankful for, being able to celebrate this momentous occasion with the Nucor team, family, local and state leaders and others.
He said 1969 was the beginning of Nucor, and it started right here in the Pee Dee, in Darlington.
“Congratulations to current and retired members of the Nucor Steel – South Carolina team on reaching this important milestone," Hopper said. "All of us are proud to work at this mill, which has played such a crucial role in Nucor’s history.”
Operations began at the mill on June 26, 1969. It was Nucor’s first steel mill, built to supply steel to the company’s steel joist plant in neighboring Florence, according to a Nucor Steel South Carolina announcement.
“Nucor founder Ken Iverson decided to build a mill that used an electric arc furnace (EAF) to melt scrap metal into new steel products instead of making steel using a blast furnace – the dominant method of steelmaking in the United States at that time," the announcement said. "That decision revolutionized the way steel is made in America. Today, EAFs account for approximately 70 percent of the steel produced in this country.”
The Darlington mill opened at a cost of $8 million and had a 32-ton capacity. Today it can produce up to 1 million tons a year.
Hopper said safe, profitable results are the company's standard. Safety of the employees is No. 1 in importance at the mill.
“I can’t wait to see the great things ahead for Nucor Steel,” he said.
Ferriola said the first day the mill opened didn’t go as planned. He said the men ran back to the fields, where they had previously worked, but they came back and started solving problems. They never stopped improving, he said. He said they were focused on getting better, continuing to improve and taking calculated risks.
He said this Nucor culture is what brought success.
In 2018, Nucor had a record year for the company in terms of sales, record and, most important, earnings, Ferriola said.
Ferriola said he is confident that the best years are ahead. He said they recognize that their team is their greatest asset.
“Nothing is more important than your safety,” he said.
He said Nucor focuses on taking care of customers, providing quality products and on-time deliveries, which are also part of its success story.
“Nucor Steel’s 50 years of doing business at the Darlington steel mill has been marked by great team members and the kind of innovation that changes entire industries,” McMaster said.
He said South Carolina is a special place, and Nucor is a special company that has found success here and become “an integral part of the very fabric of our state.”
“This is a fine business, a fine facility,” he said. “People take care of each other here.”
He presented Nucor with a framed gold South Carolina seal.
Lucas said that on May 9 a resolution was passed 124-0 in celebration of Nucor’s 50th anniversary. He said he can’t remember anything else that has passed 124-0.
Lucas said the roots of Nucor are in the Pee Dee and it is a tremendous business partner with the state of South Carolina.
“Last month, Nucor announced that it will add a vacuum degassing system at the mill which will enable it to produced engineered bar products meeting the most stringent quality specifications required by the automotive market and other specialty steel applications,” according to the announcement.
Nucor Steel-South Carolina is one of 13 Nucor bar mills located across the United States.