Sen. Sherrod Brown grabbed a handful of iron-ore pellets roughly the size of BBs from the gigantic mountain in front of him.

The chalky little balls of taconite were destined for a furnace that would convert them into briquetted iron for use by steel manufacturers in northwest Ohio and beyond.

That’s the process underpinning Cleveland-Cliffs’ new direct-reduction plant in East Toledo, which after much fanfare and more than two years of construction, began cooking iron ore pellets in December, 2020.

Despite only employing 160 people now that construction is completed, the $1 billion plant is considered a major economic driver for the Port of Toledo and region overall, creating a hub of economic activity in service of the company’s 457-foot furnace tower.

It therefore piqued the interest of Senator Brown, a Democrat who often works on issues involving trade, manufacturing, and workers. Mr. Brown was in northwest Ohio on Wednesday to tour the plant and attend a business roundtable in Findlay.

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