Big River Steel Announces $1.1B Mill for Osceola, Will Employ 525

by Mark Carter and Lance Turner  on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 11:03 am  

On Tuesday, Beebe also noted Entergy Arkansas Inc.'s efforts to help bring the plant to the region. Entergy Arkansas spokesperson Julie Munsell told Arkansas Business that the utility will provide a design team to work with Big Steel on specific electrical needs and getting power to the site.

John Correnti

Big River Steel is led by Correnti, an Arkansas native and former Nucor Corp. CEO. Correnti tried to build a $700 million steel mill in Mississippi County in 2005. He ended up moving that project, which would have employed 450 people, to Columbus, Miss., after that state offered an incentive package of grants and loans that amounted to $110 million. 

At the time, Correnti was critical of Arkansas' economic development efforts. Others with knowledge of the deal said electricity rates might have been among the deal breakers.

Correnti said the difference this time amounted to Beebe, who took office in 2007; the work of Arkansas Economic Development Commission director Grant Tennille and his staff; and being able to come to terms with Entergy. He called the current AEDC staff the best he's worked with in the country.

"This happened because Gov. Beebe wanted it to happen," he said.

Correnti said his group looked at sites in other states, including Missouri and Texas, and at other sites in Arkansas.

Correnti has had success developing steel operations in Mississippi but some of his other projects have failed. He backed a $650 million Severstal steel mill that opened in 2007 in Lowndes County, Miss. A separate silicon plant in the county lapsed when funding couldn't be arranged.

He also announced in 2008 plans for a $175 million steel rebar project at Amory, Miss. With the promise of an 80,000-square-foot facility along the Tennessee-Tombigbee River and the creation of 200 jobs. But after a celebratory groundbreaking, the project fizzled.

In Ontario, Ohio, Correnti and others promised a $275 million silicon plant that was never built, and in Stanly County, N.C., Correnti and others promoted a $300 million silicon project and 450 new jobs. After local officials bickered over the project, the deal was taken off the table in December 2011.

On Tuesday, Tennille told the Associated Press that his team looked at those previous ventures but are confident that the Arkansas project will succeed.

"When you're dealing with somebody who does as many deals as he has, there will always be things that are bigger successes than others," Tennille said. "We really feel that in terms of building steel mills there is nobody better than John Correnti."



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