Mark Bula’s career was forged in the massive steel mills of Ohio and Illinois, the Great Lakes sector of the American steel industry. Today, as CCO of Big River Steel (BRS) located in the Arkansas Delta, Bula shares the essential reasons that brought BRS to Arkansas, which has become one of the nation’s hottest regions for steel.
“Without formidable power,” says Bula, “Arkansas would not be an attractive location to steel producers.” The annual power needs for 100 homes would only power BRS for one minute. However, BRS is powered by an existing 500-kilovolt transmission line, courtesy of Entergy Arkansas. A second 500-kilovolt substation in the area ensures that BRS’s electric arc melting process is online around the clock.
2. The Mississippi River
“We cannot do what we do without direct access to the Mississippi River,” says Bula. Because BRS has customers across North America, the Mississippi River’s massive shipping capabilities are essential. Arkansas’ river access, and its advantageous central location reduce logistics costs dramatically.
3. Pro-business Leadership
“It’s so important to work with a governor who gets things done,” says Bula of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who he praised for running a pro-business, state government focused on the bottom line. For assisting projects like BRS, Bula says, accessibility cuts red tape and accelerates timetables.
4. Agency Action
Arkansas Economic Development Commission is the governor’s right-hand agency for business, helping to facilitate action. Bula said the commission’s role was of great help to the BRS project. “Having somebody who knows the state and who can bring the right people to the table is huge,” he said.
Today, Mississippi County is among the top steel producing counties in the nation, employing nearly 5,500 workers and playing an essential role in the state’s economy.
Big River Steel (in Osceola) successfully began processing steel in March. When fully operational, The flex mill is expected to produce 1.6 metric tons of niche and specialty steels currently undersupplied and in demand in the North American market.