Sen. Portman tours local aluminum plant

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, listens as Pennex Aluminum Technical Director Henry Bertolini leads him on a tour of the aluminum extrusion and fabrication facility at World Trade Park in Leetonia Friday. Portman spoke privately with company officials before touring the plant then holding a town hall session with employees. (Photo by Mary Ann Greier)

LEETONIA — Export more, keep imports fair — that’s how U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said he feels about trade, especially when it comes to leveling the playing field for companies like Pennex Aluminum.

“My view is you can compete with anybody anywhere in the world, as long as it’s fair,” he told workers gathered for a town hall.

Portman met behind closed doors with company officials for a short time before touring the plant with state Rep. Tim Ginter, R-Salem, Leetonia village and school officials, Salem Township trustees and the media in tow. After the tour, he spoke to employees who asked him about everything from health care and the war on drugs to President Trump’s treatment of the press.

He praised the aluminum extrusion and fabrication facility as an example of how his trade legislation like the Leveling the Playing Field Act and the ENFORCE Act can affect local companies and communities for the better by forcing countries like China, who he said uses unfair tactics to try to get around trade rules, to play by the rules.

Pennex Aluminum unveiled a $38 million expansion at the Leetonia facility in World Trade Park two years ago and has been adding employees.

“This plant is one of the best in the country. You’re creating a lot of jobs here. My job is to help you continue to do that,” Portman said.

Rick Merluzzi, President and CEOO of the Metal Exchange Corporation, parent company of Pennex Aluminum, gave background on how a deluge of aluminum from China was devastating for the industry in 2009, but then an anti-dumping case was filed in court and an order went into place to help relieve the situation. He said Portman has been an advocate for jobs in Ohio and the aluminum industry.

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