Steel mill super-project moving forward


LITTLE ROCK — The head of Big River Steel said Friday he expects ground to be broken on the $1.1 billion advanced steel production plant by Christmas, less than a year after the super-project planned for Mississippi County was first announced.

The state Department of Environmental Quality approved an air permit for the facility on Thursday, a development that Big River Steel CEO John Correnti said “puts us in the red zone.”

“By mid-October, we’ll be putting out the bid packages for the major site preparation work. That’s clearing the land, putting the roads and railroads in, putting the ramp over the top of the levee and up to the river,” Correnti said Friday in an interview with Arkansas News Bureau business columnist Roby Brock.

He said groundbreaking on the 1,000 acre is expected to take place between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The project is expected to generate 2,000 jobs during construction, over 18 to 20 months, and employ more than 520 permanent workers with average salaries of $75,000 when production begins in late 2015.

Officials say the steel mill, announced in January 2013, will produce steel for the automotive, oil and gas, and electrical energy industries.

Arkansas lawmakers approved a $125 million bond package to help finance the project under authority of Amendment 82, the state’s super-project amendment, to secure the location would be built in Mississippi County. State and local officials also devoted millions of dollars in additional incentives to land the project.

Big River Steel was formed by Correnti and a team of industrial and financial investors. Correnti once headed Nucor Steel and its two steel mills also located in Mississippi County. He has nearly 40 years of experience in the steel industry.

The bond legislation requires that Big River Steel investors spend $250 million before any state funds are released for the project.

Correnti said the next stage of the project will shift to financing.

“This is the debt portion of the total financing. They’re just now reviewing the marketing study, the engineering study, and the accounting study, just like if you or I went into a bank to get a loan or a mortgage,” he said.

All told, the capital budget for Phase I of the steel mill consists of $721 million in equipment, $303 million in building and construction costs, and $10 million in land costs.

Correnti said he is also working with local officials, signing contracts for the major equipment purchases for the plant and other details necessary in anticipation of finalizing financing.

“I’ve done this quite a few times before and it’s like a shot of B-12 in a community’s arm,” he said. “I’m excited about it.”