PELLA, IA - AUGUST 10: Former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, attends a business roundtable to discuss the economy during a campaign stop at the Vermeer Corporation on August 10, 2011 in Pella, Iowa.…
©2007 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A part of Kansas City's economic history has become a flash point in the Republican presidential campaign.
It has to do with Mitt Romney's record for creating jobs.
The Republican front-runner was once CEO of Bain Capital.
Romney said he bought struggling businesses and turned them around while saving and creating jobs.
But Bain also ran a Kansas City steel mill, changed its name from ARMCO to GST, and eventually shut it down.
When GST Steel Company closed down, Donnie Box lost his job of 32 years, two weeks and one day.
A decade later, he's watching a Republican debate on TV with a buddy from the plant.
"And somebody said something to Mitt Romney about Bain Capital, and we both had one of those 'Aha' [moments]," Box said.
Bain Capital owned GST when it shut down.
NBC Action News covered the story back in 2001.
It was two years after Romney left Bain Capital, but that doesn't matter to Box, who says he's a liberal Democrat.
"You know, you're a school bus driver. You stop the bus, get out to smoke a cigarette, the bus rolls down the hill and slams into the school. Is it the bus's fault? He's the one that set up the management team that came in there and just gutted the place," Box said.
The plant's closing cost 750 workers their jobs.
That's counter to Romney's campaign message that he ran a company that created jobs.
So his Republican primary opponents have pounced on this example and turned it into a national issue.
"Mitt Romney likes to fire people, I like to create jobs," said Jon Huntsman.
"When I start hearing this stuff... that he's a job creator, Mitt Romney was a job creator and stuff, the first thing I do, is you chuckle, oh man," Box said.
Several other businesses now operate on the site, from a salvage yard to Moly-Cop, a plant that employs a few of the former ARMCO workers.
Donnie Box estimates that the ripple effect of the plant's closing cost the jobs of up to 2,000 people.
That would be the plant workers plus people formerly employed by suppliers, restaurants and other nearby businesses that depended on the steel plant.
Starting Wednesday, a short film will begin airing in South Carolina called, "When Mitt Romney Came to Town." An independent group backing Newt Gingrich created the film and will spend $5 million to roll it out.
It looks at four companies acquired and shut down by Bain. Bloomberg News which reviewed the film said GST is not one of the companies featured.
Even though the short relies on news accounts, Bloomberg said it doesn't always give a complete picture.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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