Montana steel manufacturer reacts to possibility of tariffs

Management at Belgrade-based manufacturer Montana Steel Industries believe a proposed steel tariff would have a wide-ranging impact on other industries and consumers.

A nationwide debate was sparked after President Donald Trump announced his plan to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, and one Montana company is paying close attention.

Belgrade-based Montana Steel Industries specializes in fabricating structural steel for construction projects. General manager Kevin Brownlee said a tariff on foreign steel would lead to greater demand and a minor price increase for domestic companies.

"What we're going to see is overall prices increasing a little bit but not nothing to freak out about," Brownlee said.

Montana Steel Industries CFO Randy Chamberlin said any kind of price spike is unwelcome.

"It affects everybody," Chamberlin said. "The people who are building the buildings and the people who lease space in buildings, right on down to the consumer."

Chamberlin told NBC Montana the tariffs will have a ripple effect on other industries.

"A lot of times legislation or tariffs have a lot of unintended consequences," Chamberlin said. "You have to look at the economy as a whole not just the steel and how it's going to affect us."

Chamberlin is concerned the tariffs could result in other countries imposing tariffs on their imports in retaliation, setting off a trade war. He believes Montana ranchers would take a big hit in terms of sales.

Now all MSI can do is wait. Brownlee isn't concerned.

"We've got a lot of jobs on the books, and there's more coming," Brownlee said. "I think we're going be just fine."

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