Business

Major Charlotte company puts expansion on hold after Trump announces new tariffs

President Donald Trump listens to John Ferriola, chief executive of Charlotte-based Nucor, during a roundtable discussion on foreign trade and steel production with corporate leaders inside the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington Thursday. President Trump said on Thursday that he will impose stiff and sweeping tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum as he moved to fulfill a key campaign promise to get tough on foreign competitors. From left: Roger Newport, chief executive of AK Steel Holding Corporation; John Ferriola, chief executive of Nucor; Trump; and Dave Burritt of U.S. Steel.
President Donald Trump listens to John Ferriola, chief executive of Charlotte-based Nucor, during a roundtable discussion on foreign trade and steel production with corporate leaders inside the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington Thursday. President Trump said on Thursday that he will impose stiff and sweeping tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum as he moved to fulfill a key campaign promise to get tough on foreign competitors. From left: Roger Newport, chief executive of AK Steel Holding Corporation; John Ferriola, chief executive of Nucor; Trump; and Dave Burritt of U.S. Steel. NYT

Swedish appliance maker Electrolux Group, which bases its North American operations in Charlotte, said it’s putting on hold a planned expansion of a Tennessee factory as it evaluates tariffs on steel and aluminum imports announced Thursday by President Donald Trump.

Electrolux in January said it is investing more than $250 million in its Springfield, Tenn., facility, expanding production by adding 400,000 square feet for manufacturing. Construction was set to start in late 2018 and continue into 2020.

“Unfortunately, this tariff decision gives foreign appliance manufacturers a cost advantage that is hard to compete against,” the company said Friday. “We are evaluating the decision and are concerned enough about the negative financial impact that we are putting our $250 million Tennessee expansion on hold until the order is signed and final details are understood.”

The company also noted that currently “100 percent of the carbon steel we use in our U.S. manufacturing comes from American steel mills.”

Trump, who has long railed against what he deems unfair trade practices by China and others, summoned steel and aluminum executives to the White House and said next week he would levy penalties of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports. The tariffs, he said, would remain for “a long period of time,” but it was not immediately clear if certain trading partners would be exempt.

“What’s been allowed to go on for decades is disgraceful. It’s disgraceful,” Trump told the executives in the Cabinet Room. “When it comes to a time when our country can’t make aluminum and steel ... you almost don’t have much of a country.”

In addition to the Tennessee expansion, Electrolux also said in January that it was consolidating its freezer production at a facility in Anderson, S.C., where it had already announced plans to invest $250 million on an expansion. As part of that investment, the company will launch a new line of Frigidaire refrigeration and freezer products. Construction started last year and is expected to be completed in 2019. Anderson is about two hours southwest of Charlotte.

The Anderson consolidation will result in the closure of a facility in St. Cloud, Minn. Production at that plant will continue through 2019, the company said. The consolidation project remains on track.

The appliance-maker moved its North American unit to Charlotte from Augusta, Ga., in 2010. In 2016, it canceled a major expansion at its North American headquarters in Charlotte after its failed attempt to purchase General Electric’s appliance unit.

Nucor praises move

Another Charlotte company affected by Trump’s announcement is steel maker Nucor, whose CEO, John Ferriola, attended Thursday’s meeting. The company has long been a critic of free-trade policies that it says hurts U.S. manufacturing and costs jobs. Former CEO Dan DiMicco served as an adviser to Trump during his campaign and transition.

“Nucor applauds President Trump’s decision announcing strong and decisive action by imposing tariffs on steel imports that threaten our national security,” Ferriola said in a statement. “The President has consistently been a strong advocate for holding other countries accountable that systematically and flagrantly violate international trade agreements and free market principles. We are pleased that the President has decided to use all the tools at his disposal to send a clear message to foreign competitors that dumping steel products into our market will no longer be tolerated.”

The Commerce Department, Ferriola added, “was correct in concluding that surging imports impair our national security by limiting the ability of our domestic steel industry to supply national defense and critical infrastructure needs, and the President is taking the appropriate response to this threat.”

The Associated Press contributed.

Rick Rothacker: 704-358-5170, @rickrothacker

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