US Steel Picks Northeast Arkansas for $3B Mill


US Steel Picks Northeast Arkansas for $3B Mill
The Big River Steel Flex Mill, a facility near Osceola owned by U.S. Steel. (Karen E. Segrave)

United States Steel Corp. of Pittsburgh on Tuesday announced that is has chosen Osceola as the site of a new steel mill described as the most advanced in North America. 

Arkansas had been competing against Alabama and Mississippi for the $3 billion project, which will create about 900 direct and indirect jobs. Lawmakers said the direct jobs will pay $120,000 annually while the indirect jobs will have salaries of least $60,000.

The new optimized steel production facility is expected to feature two electric arc furnaces with 3 million tons per year of advanced steelmaking capability, U.S. Steel said in a news release. It will also feature a state-of-the-art endless casting and rolling line and advanced finishing capabilities. The steel giant said those features will bring significant energy, efficiency and capability enhancements to its operations.

Permitting for the project is underway. The company expects to break ground in the first quarter of 2022, with project completion and full operation expected in 2024.

The facility will be located near U.S. Steel’s Big River Steel plant in Osceola. U.S. Steel bought Big River Steel for a combined $1.5 billion over two deals in 2019 and 2020. The combined production of the facilities will be 6.3 million tons, according to the company.

“With this location selected and shovels ready, we are reshaping the future of steelmaking,” U.S. Steel President and CEO David Burritt said in the release. “We had numerous competitive site options, but Osceola offers our customers incomparable advantages.”

Those advantages, according to U.S. Steel, include renewable and clean power from Entergy Arkansas, rail service from BNSF with connections to other railroads, Mississippi River docks and interstate trucking access.

The new plant is another major step for the region's growing steel industry. Majestic Steel Inc. in August announced plans to build a 515,000-SF service center and high-tech processing facility on the campus of Nucor Steel Arkansas in Blytheville. Also in Blytheville, Atlas Pipe is completing a 515,000-SF facility that company officials said will be the largest continuous electric resistance welding mill in the world. In 2020, Big River Steel completed a $700 million expansion that doubled annual production capacity to 3.3 million tons of flat-rolled steel.

Growth at other steelmakers including Nucor-Hickman and Nucor-Yamato has turned Mississippi County, once the nation's top cotton-producing county, to No. 2 among America’s steel-producing counties. 

Now the county is positioned to become No. 1, U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford said in a statement on Tuesday. 

“The news this afternoon from U.S. Steel is exciting and is a testament to the workforce and environment we have in Northeast Arkansas to support this incredible growth by our steel industry,” said Crawford, who is vice chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus. 

Lawmakers in December approved incentives for the project including an $11 million annual income tax credit. That adds to $4.8 million in CARES Act funds awarded in October to support the manufacturing and steel industries in the region. Osceola received $2.8 million to make water and wastewater improvements to support the steel industry without straining the existing system. Wynne received $2 million in funds that will be used to construct a new industrial rail spur facility.


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