From laborer to vice president/chief operating officer, James Ledgard had many jobs during a nearly four decade career in the steel industry. It all started in the fall of 1968 and ended in 2008. There were many employment changes/ relocations over that span.
His first position was as a laborer at Pittsburgh Steel Foundry in Glassport in October, 1968. Ledgard moved onto the Irvin Works plant of United States Steel in 1971 as a pickling production employee, progressing through the ranks to the highest operating level job in the department. In 1977, he was promoted to the management team and later selected as a key manager for U.S. Steel's corporate development program in 1988. He attended evening classes at Penn State-McKeesport and Duquesne University in 1989-90.
Ledgard then was recruited to join former U.S. Steel executives in the rescue of Armco Steel, a floundering Middletown, OH company. He joined the team as an expert cold rolling operations manager. In less than two years, his contribution as Department Manager yielded significant improvement in the safety, productivity and quality. The cold rolling operations productivity more than doubled. This afforded a significant increase of available product to the customer base. The increase in earnings provided a robust flow of revenue to the balance sheet of the company.
When negotiations were finalized to separate from Armco to create a new company, AK Steel, Ledgard jumped to the new steel firm. AK Steel flourished and profitability continued which permitted expansion to secure a larger customer base. To accommodate the customer growth, a new carbon and stainless steel plant was approved by the company's board of directors. He was named Design Engineering General Manager and was responsible for the design, construction start-up and operations of the new Greenfield plant. He and his select team of engineers were able to travel extensively through the United States, Europe, China and Japan to measure best available technology. The facility, Rockport Works in Spencer, County, Indiana, was built and started in record time. Early in 1998, trade and craft personnel on the construction site peaked at more than 2,300. The facility was constructed both ahead of schedule and under the 1.2 billion dollar budgeted. This facility produces carbon steel, stainless steel as well as galvanized and galvannealed strip at an unequalled production rate throughout the world.
The success of the Rockport construction and operation created another career opportunity for Ledgard. In November, 2001, he was named Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Combined Metals of Chicago, an AK Steel Joint Venture. With his leadership and experience, he was able to bolster the company. Significant improvement to productivity and to quality afforded solidification as well as expansion to the primary customer base in the aerospace, oil and gas exploration and automotive industries.
One more challenge for him was to come out of a three-year retirement in 2007 to contribute to the revitalization of Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel. ESMARK Steel, the purchaser of Wheeling Pittsburgh, named him Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. His team improved quality and productivity at ESMARK over the next two years. Severstal Steel purchased ESMARK in August, 2008, and Ledgard reretired.
Ledgard's ability to recall details of past experiences served him well in solving complex issues through his career. His ability to select educated, talents and motivated people significantly contributed to his career success at each endeavor.
Throughout his career, Ledgard has taken part in revitalizing tired or under-performing companies. Given the opportunity to design and to build Rockport, a Greenfield facility, was extremely rewarding.
In retirement, whether it is a result of environment or heredity, Ledgard's personality is such that he runs out of time every day. He enjoys restoring and showing his Muscle Car collection. He and his wife, Jean keeps a regimen of walking miles each morning with Lola, their Irish setter.
Ledgard is the son of the late Walter Ledgard and Anna Mae Bilak Ledgard. He is the second born of six children: the late Sandy Ledgard Adams, EF Class of 1967; Paul Ledgard, EF '69; Dan and Dave Ledgard, graduates of South Allegheny High School, and Ron Ledgard, a Norwin graduate. His family moved to the Central section of Elizabeth Township in 1960 from Versailles. He attended Central Elementary, the old EF Junior High and EF Senior High and it during these times that lasting friendships with classmates were cultivated.
During the summer of 1967, Ledgard met his future wife, Jean Breitinger, a 1969 McKeesport graduate. They will celebrate their 52nd wedding anniversary on November 29. They have two daughters, Tracy Ledgard Scozio and Kimberly Ledgard Bush, and seven grandchildren: Lexie, Kali, Lea, Lacey, Alex, Madison and Sergei.