Why Pueblo, CO Is 'Steel City'

One of the largest steel-producing cities in the U.S., Pueblo’s history helps grow its future.

On Saturday, October 6, 2012 - 06:00
Pueblo CO Steelworks Museum

Pueblo's beauty can be found in the hills, water and land. The natural resources that attracted people to its idyllic scenery also attracted businesses, giving Pueblo its nickname "Steel City."

Its History

In 1872, William Jackson Palmer, a railroad magnate from Pennsylvania, organized the Central Colorado Improvement Company to build a railroad from Denver to the Rio Grande. In Pueblo, Palmer found all the raw materials he needed to manufacturer steel rails "“ water from the Arkansas River, significant coal deposits south and west of the city, limestone and iron from mines in nearby valleys and mountains. In 1881 he founded the Colorado Coal and Iron Company in Pueblo, which became the first integrated steel mill west of the Mississippi River.

The area's resources attracted other steel-manufacturing entrepreneurs to the area. In 1892, Palmer and a competitor, Charles Osgood of the Colorado Fuel Company, merged to create Colorado Fuel & Iron (CF&I).

In the more than 100 years that followed, CF&I had several financial ups and downs. In 1993, while going through bankruptcy, it was acquired by Oregon Steel Mills and renamed Rocky Mountain Steel Mills. Yet, during this time, the plant never stopped operating.

Modern-Day Pueblo

In 2006, EVRAZ Group, one of Russia's biggest steel producers, bought the company. EVRAZ Pueblo is the number-one producer of rail in North America. Today, instead of using natural resources, steel manufacturing recycles old cars, filing cabinets, rails and other scrap. EVRAZ Pueblo is the largest recycler in Colorado, processing the equivalent of more than a million cars in its facility each year. Still going strong, EVRAZ Pueblo celebrated its 140th anniversary in 2012, and is undergoing multi-million-dollar operational upgrades at its facility.

"This latest investment will greatly improve quality and product development capabilities and expand capacity by more than ten percent," says Ben Lutze, vice president and general manager of EVRAZ Pueblo. "The investments will help ensure we are ready to meet the growing demands of the country's infrastructure, especially those of the North American rail companies as they continually expand their networks."

As one of the largest steel-producing cities in the United States, Pueblo's rich history is preserved by the Steelworks Museum of Industry and Culture, which houses the historic CF&I archives.

"Pueblo stayed true to its roots and grew up to be a manufacturing town "“ and still is," says Steelworks Museum archivist Tim Hawkins. "Through the years, the steel mills attracted a diverse group of people to the area, and there are many fourth-generation families of steel workers here."

Pueblo continues to attract new companies, such as Vestas Towers America, which opened the world's largest wind tower manufacturing plant in Pueblo in 2010.

Find out more on business industries in Pueblo, CO.