Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tariffs Mean a Turnaround for Steel Pipe Manufacturer in St. Charles

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tariffs Mean a Turnaround for Steel Pipe Manufacturer in St. Charles

Article excerpt

Trinity Products' 170 employees heard good news this week: They're on pace to earn more than $5,000 apiece in profit sharing this year.

That's up from $1,100 last year and a dramatic improvement from 2015, 2016 and 2017, when the steel pipe manufacturer didn't earn enough to trigger the payments.

The difference, company President Robert Griggs says, is that President Donald Trump's tariffs, along with a series of anti-dumping rulings, have made pipe manufacturing a good business again.

Trinity's pipe mill in St. Charles was shut down last week by flooding, but Griggs expects it to be running this week, making large-diameter pipe for ports, oilfields and construction projects around the country. Trinity also operates a fabrication plant in O'Fallon, Mo.

In 2016 and 2017, Trinity lost a series of big orders to pipe from China that was being sold, Griggs says, for less than he would have paid for the raw steel to make the pipe. On a project at New York City's Holland Tunnel, he lost to a company selling pipe fabricated in Turkey from steel coils made in China.

Trinity has a rail facility in Pennsylvania, 90 miles from the tunnel, but it couldn't compete with steel that traveled two-thirds of the way around the globe. "We were the low-cost domestic producer, and we lost that bid by 12%," Griggs recalls. "We couldn't get a single one of those large projects at the time."

Trinity put $8 million worth of capital projects on hold during the lean times and reduced its 401(k) match, but the worst part, Griggs says, was having to disappoint workers. Trinity practices open-book management, sharing monthly financial reports with employees and also sharing profits with them in good years.

"I'm embarrassed getting up in front of my employees when they work hard and I have to say, 'Guys, we're not making enough profit,'" Griggs says.

The U. …

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