In November 2015, Algoma Steel, one of the largest steel producers in Canada, filed for bankruptcy protection. It took more than two years for the company to enter into an asset purchase agreement with creditors, but it was eventually purchased by a group of private investors overseen by a seven-member board of directors. General Counsel J. Robert Sandoval came to the company just in time to help Algoma Steel weather its way through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, union negotiations, and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) restructuring. Since then, he’s helped usher in new and promising growth that has allowed the company to learn from its past and leave the rest behind.
The steel producer was able to stand upright, free of any and all CCAA restrictions by late in 2018. What’s more, Algoma didn’t lose any of its employees—in fact, the company has hired more than 368 new ones since 2018. Sandoval believes that stepping out from the CCAA restrictions will make hiring a much more significant priority in the near future.
The company also announced a $300 million modernization drive focusing on a direct strip production complex, the only facility like it in Canada capable of converting liquid steel directly into steel coils. The modernization spend will also go towards Algoma’s plate and strip mill, whose old infrastructure will benefit from upgrades to help boost more plate production. Lastly, the upgrades will go toward a second ladle metallurgical furnace which will deliver another 100,000 tons of steel per year.
In addition to the company’s investment in its own technologies, Algoma Steel received $150 million in 2019 in federal grants and loans to help transform the evolving steel mill. The money will go toward adopting new technologies, improving productivity, and helping sustain competitiveness in the global market.
The new start for Algoma came with new leadership. In March 2019, Mike McQuade assumed the CEO mantle from Kalyan Ghosh, who had helped shepherd the company through its tumultuous but ultimately successful transition. McQuade joined during the aluminum and steel tariff war launched by the United States earlier in the year. At one point, Algoma was losing as much as one million dollars a day, a difficult scenario for a company recently back from the brink. The year-long standoff ended in May, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau even made a stop by the steel mill to meet employees.
Maybe the most indicative symbol of Algoma’s return to glory stretches up into the holiday sky. A 29-foot-wide steel-framed star outfitted with lights was erected over Sault Ste. Marie during the holiday season. Noticeably absent during the company’s financial struggles, the star was hoisted back up with the help of an 80-ton crane with a 165-foot boom. It’s a sign that the steel company is back to where it was, and that its vision is focused on evolving, growing, and staying competitive on a global scale.