But John Anton, director of steel services at IHS Global Insight, an economic forecasting firm, said that the bargain price Renco made could give them more financial room to invest in the plant. He also pointed out that the company could be banking on the steel market eventually improving.

RG Steel has reached a new collective bargaining agreement with the United Steelworkers that still must be approved by members. Union leaders would not give details about the agreement, but they were optimistic about the new ownership.

"Our members are ready to focus again on making steel safely and efficiently as they have in all these communities for generations," said David McCall, who chairs the negotiating committee for the steelworkers. "We must now do everything we can to ensure the profitability of these plants and the sustainability of RG Steel as a long-term employer."

Bradford said Renco likely won concessions, including making at least some of the layoffs permanent.

"More than likely Renco has worked out some kind of deal with the union," Bradford said. "It would be stupid for Renco to do this without concessions. Sparrows Point historically has been over-manned."

Several workers who had been laid off declined to comment Wednesday, citing the continued uncertainty surrounding the plant's future.

A group of retired workers eating lunch on Wednesday at Micky's on North Point Boulevard near the steel plant welcomed the news of the sale.

"Our hope is that this place will fire back up and become an asset to this area and create jobs," said Howard Evans, 60, of Edgemere, a retired Sparrows Point iron worker who now works for a heating and air conditioning contractor. "I made the most money I ever made in my life at Bethlehem Steel. It is a shame what happened to that place."

Several lawmakers in recent months had been in talks with Severstal. Gov. Martin O'Malley said in a statement that he was pleased with the Renco sale. The deal "holds the promise that the plant's long tradition of manufacturing and steel production — and of providing jobs with family-supporting wages — will continue," O'Malley said.

He added: "We welcome RG Steel and its headquarters to Maryland and stand ready to help the company and the United Steelworkers return, re-train and retain nearly 2,000 steelworkers in Sparrows Point."

Said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz: "We all look forward to the workers being called back soon and seeing the blast furnace up running and producing steel for the global market."

Sun reporter Lorraine Mirabella contributed to this report.

andrea.walker@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/ankwalker

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