Big River Steel Proposal Gains Traction in Legislature

by Michael Stratford, The Associated Press  on Monday, Apr. 1, 2013 10:14 am  

Koch Industries is a major investor in the project, investing $120 million into the project to become a 40 percent stakeholder, according to George Hopkins, executive director of the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, which is itself planning to be a 20 percent investor in Big River Steel.

House Republican Leader Bruce Westerman said he's still undecided about the $125 million package, which includes $50 million as a loan.

"We're acting more like a bank when we're giving them grants to develop a site," said Westerman, R-Hot Springs. "Do I think that's the best use of government resources? Not necessarily, but I know that's the game of economic development and you might have to do that if you're going to be competitive with other states."

Nucor Steel, which operates two steel plants near Blytheville, says having another steel mill in northeast Arkansas would negatively impact their business and could force them to scale back their Arkansas workforce.

Big River Steel is being led by a former Nucor executive John Correnti. Backers of the project say that both companies will be able to prosper in the region.

"Nucor has been a very fine citizen, and I wouldn't support Big River if I didn't think they can live in harmony together," said Burnett. "Competition is generally what makes for better products, a better engine of industry."

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