Business, Central New York, Community, Government

Local Business Tries To Get Ahead Of Proposed Steel Tariffs

Jason LaShomb is the Vice President of Hertel Steel Inc. in Mattydale and is worried that proposed tariffs on steel may send material prices soaring. (c) 2018 J.D. Raucci

Click the play button above to learn how one local company’s vice president is worried about how proposed tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum could hurt his business. 

Audio Transcript: SteelTariffsLocal

By J.D. Raucci MATTYDALE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Jason LaShomb walked down a narrow, dimly lit hallway before turning the doorknob. As the door creaked open, a large, bright workshop filled with machinery and steel products revealed itself. He apologized for the shop being in disarray before explaining how President Trump’s proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum could hurt Hertel Steel Inc.

Inside the steel fabrication shop, LaShomb, who serves as the vice president of Hertel, and his team specialize in making and installing rebar for concrete projects.

If put into effect, Trump’s tariffs would impose a 25-percent tax on steel imports and a similar ten-percent tax on aluminum. They would increase prices of foreign metals for companies like Hertel, something LaShomb has seen before.

“It happened probably about ten or 12 years ago,” LaShomb said. “China was taking up all the scrap and prices went crazy and it was a crazy, volatile market back ten years ago.”

Because he has seen the prices increase drastically before, LaShomb said that getting out in front of the issue before it becomes a bigger problem is the best way to mitigate the effect it has on Hertel.

“I talk to our suppliers daily now and I talk to our customers daily now,” LaShomb said. “The suppliers are telling me the prices are going to go up. Nobody can tell me when and how much.

“So what we’re doing now is we’re doing daily inventories, figuring out what we need to bring in to supply the jobs we have,” he continued. “The hard part is trying to supply the jobs we don’t know about yet.”

Coupled with the uncertainty of how much the tariff will impact prices, LaShomb said it is crucial that the company keeps the line of communication open with its customers and that customers have responded well to that honesty.

“[Communication]’s really turned up in the last two weeks,” LaShomb said. “We’ve already talked to customers and we’re telling them that prices are going to go up, so some of them are allowing us, as soon as we get the contract, to bring the material in and build from stored material and keep our cash flow going.”

LaShomb said he might lose some sleep over planning for the impacts of the tariffs, but he is confident Hertel will perform well through any of the challenges they may present.