The Rutherford Report—CSI Celebrates 30 Years in Fontana

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“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.”

—Benjamin Franklin
CSI Celebrates 30 Years in Fontana

California Steel Industries, Inc.—the largest producer of flat-rolled steel west of the Rockies—celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

“CSI is proud of our team and the quality products we have manufactured here in San Bernardino County for the past 30 years,” said Ted Tamai, President & Chief Executive Officer. “We are also especially proud to have operated for these three decades without a layoff of regular employees.”

CSI emerged from the remnants of the once mighty Kaiser Steel Mill in Fontana in 1984 when a group of investors saw promise in the facility and a need for a steel producer on the West Coast.

The Kaiser Steel Mill was built in 1942 to supply steel to shipyards during World War II. It was built in Fontana, rather than by the coast, to protect it from potential enemy attacks. The plant enjoyed several decades of success but fell on hard times in the late 1970s as foreign competition, changing technology and recessionary times took a toll on the domestic steel industry across the United States.

Investors who later bought the plant took it in a different direction than Kaiser Steel. Instead of refining iron ore in massive blast furnaces to make raw steel, they decided to purchase steel slabs from foreign suppliers and to produce hot-rolled, cold-rolled, and galvanized flat-rolled sheet coils that could be sold directly to steel distributors and product manufacturers.

Today, trains deliver 75 carloads of steel slabs to CSI every day from countries such as Brazil, Mexico, and Japan, as well as domestic sources when available. Energy-efficient furnaces powered by natural gas heat the slabs to a red-hot state so they can be pressed into thin steel sheets that are rolled up like gift-wrapping paper.

Some of the rolled steel is treated in various ways to meet customers’ needs. For example, the plant galvanizes steel sheet by running it through molten zinc. This protects the steel from rust and corrosion. Galvanized steel is used heavily in the construction industry for products such as air conditioning units, air ducts, studs, siding, and decking that must be durable and corrosion-resistant.

CSI is also one of the leading suppliers of electric resistance welded (ERW) steel pipe, which is used extensively in the oil and natural gas industry. The company is in the midst of constructing a new $100-million pipe mill to expand its ERW pipe manufacturing capabilities.

In 2009, CSI installed a state-of-the-art, natural gas powered reheat furnace to increase production by about a million tons annually.

Mr. Tamai noted, “We chose to expand our operations here with access to good employees, our partnerships with the Port of Los Angeles and the rail companies, and most importantly, to best serve our customers.”

Visit to learn more about CSI.
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