In West Virginia, Senator Byrd is widely remembered for his support of coal, the industry and the miners as a driving force in the state’s economy. However, Senator Byrd also supported the steel industry, both within and outside West Virginia. In the late 1990s, the Senator pushed for the passage of the Steel Loan Guarantee Program which provided much needed economic assistance to the struggling industry.
The steel industry in West Virginia is centered in its northern panhandle, especially in the city of Weirton. Beginning in the early twentieth century, steel production in Weirton provided massive economic benefit to the region and employed thousands of workers. By the 1990s, Weirton Steel along with the entire U.S. steel industry was in decline and hundreds of workers were being laid off. One of the reasons cited for this decline was the flood of foreign imported steel at cheap prices, forcing the downsizing of domestic steel production.