The results of the Trump administration's 25 percent tariff on steel imports last month are not yet clear. But the move did put at least one Midwest business location in the spotlight: AK Steel's Middletown Works in Ohio, just north of Cincinnati.
AK Steel is pursuing new products in electrical steel, one of the import niches in the tariff's crosshairs. U.S. production of electrical steel is modest but demand is expected to rise for use in electric motors, which will be critical in the electrification of vehicles. Two years ago, AK Steel invested $36 million at Middletown to build the Research and Innovation Center, which has an eye on electrical steel and other lightweight steel products. In December 2016, the producer received a $1.8 million Department of Energy grant to help develop a new grade of steel for more efficient electric motors. Sooner or later, the question will be, where will AK Steel invest to produce the product?