Legislative Consultant to Vet Big River Steel Project

by Chuck Bartels, The Associated Press  on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013 5:12 pm  

The site of Big River Steel's proposed $1.1 billion steel plant near Osceola in Mississippi County.

The Delta Trust report, which gave Big River Steel a glowing endorsement, noted a number of risks. Even if the market for the steel doesn't turn out as expected by the developers, the Teacher Retirement System would still get a healthy return on its investment, Delta Trust concluded.

"I think that for the most part, a lot of this is very numbers driven," Hopkins said, though a subjective element includes an evaluation of the background and abilities of the project's team.

The Big River Steel project is led by John D. Correnti and Global Principal Partners. Correnti and his team have developed 15 similar mills over the last 25 years.

Legislators have worked to quickly familiarize themselves with the project, but there is still a lot of information to absorb.

"The membership certainly deserves to see the analysis that (AEDC) conducted and to go through our statutory review process. That's what we're waiting on," Carter said.

State officials and people associated with the project took questions recently during separate House and Senate sessions, but Carter said members have other avenues they want to explore.

"The membership hasn't seen anything other than the things we've discussed on the floor and they've been doing their own individual due diligence. We need to look at the report and make sure we're spending the taxpayers' money wisely," Carter said.

Hopkins said that if the Legislature balks at the project, he expects to see his board keep its $60 million investment in the project, presuming it goes to another state.

"I would say that if Arkansas chooses not to participate in this superproject, there are offers on the table and potential offers that we think would be as good as, if not better, relative to how the money would be spent and allocated," Hopkins said.

"On a dollar-for-dollar basis, Mississippi's offer last April was probably better than Arkansas' offer," he said.

AEDC Director Grant Tennille has said that several other states are lined up with offers for the project.

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