Thirty years have passed, almost to the day, since the last blasts of the steel furnaces that were the reason for this city’s existence. The steel mill is gone — used to film “RoboCop,” then demolished. Most of the people are gone, too, and those who remain are struggling to find a new purpose for this place.This isn't the whole story; when things like air conditioners are made in China, they are made with Chinese steel, so I suspect that our imports are a higher than that 71 percent number would suggest. But however much we import, it is just a fact that modern mills need less than a tenth the labor they used in the 1940s. (More or less, making a ton of steel took 20 person-hours in 1945, 10 in 1980 and 2 today.) Various government policies might increase the amount of steel made in the US, but not the number of steel workers.
Last week, Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, came here to declare that as president, he would revive the fortunes of the American steel industry — and, by implication, Monessen.
“We are going to put American-produced steel back into the backbone of our country,” Mr. Trump told 200 invited guests at an aluminum recycling facility that occupies part of the old mill complex. “This alone will create massive numbers of jobs.”
In fact, about 71 percent of the steel used last year in the United States was made in the United States, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. The mills in Monessen and other cities along the Monongahela River were not replaced by Chinese factories but by smaller, more efficient factories in other parts of the country.
Back in Monessen, what does the mayor really want from the government? Help tearing down the old steel mill buildings so he can use the waterfront land they occupy for something else.