Frank Bergren, CEO of Illinois-based Metal Partners International, doesn’t usually visit Mid-Atlantic ports in person to receive his overseas shipments. On a recent Wednesday in early July, Bergren watched as 10,000 tons of steel arrived from Italy, bound for a fabrication plant nearby; Bergren routed the metal to a closer plant in hopes of saving money.
Logistical changes are just one way Metal Partners is adjusting to absorb higher costs from the tariffs imposed by the Trump Administration. The tab for the Italy delivery carried a tariff of about $1.5 million, a bill Bergren hadn’t budgeted for until June 1, when President Trump ended exemptions for trading partners in the European Union. In May, Bergren had already paid $1.6 million on a shipment delivered from Turkey. Much of that increase will get passed along to customers.
"It's not easy,” he says of the new tariffs. “It's a very complicated scenario to try and navigate.”
Metal Partners bends steel rods into rebar for a range of concrete support structures across the country, from grain storage buildings in the Midwest to the Lincoln Tunnel and LaGuardia Airport expansions in New York City. As the economy and building construction grow, so does demand for its products. Bergren currently sources about 60 percent of its raw steel from US companies like Gerdau, CMC, Steel Dynamics, Vinton and Cascade, but it needs more from foreign imports to fill that demand.
“We have a serious supply issue in the domestic market and without imported steel coming in, that is primary driver to what’s inflating the prices. Problem is lack of supply,” says Bergren.