First-Place Metal


First-Place Metal

In some respects, the turn into 2022 has been a tough one. Consider the rising omicron hospitalizations, continued worker shortages and surging inflation. But thanks to Tuesday’s announcement out of northeast Arkansas, 2022 will be remembered as a banner year for the state’s economy.

It’s hard to overstate how transformative U.S. Steel’s $3 billion Osceola steel mill will be to Mississippi County, the surrounding region and, indeed, the entire state. The publicly traded steel giant from Pittsburgh plans to break ground this spring on a state-of-the-art facility that, together with its sister mill, Big River Steel, can produce 6.3 million tons of product per year. It will support 2,000 construction jobs and create 900 direct and indirect jobs at an average salary of more than $100,000.

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The new mill adds to the thousands of steel jobs already in northeast Arkansas and, when it comes online, will make Mississippi County the country’s No. 1 steel producer, officials said last week.

It also sets the stage for more success. Discussing the deal on Wednesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Commerce Secretary Mike Preston said having a mega steel hub could make the state more attractive to that great white whale of all Arkansas economic developers: a major auto manufacturer. “This puts us in a better position to say to the automobile industry, ‘Locate in Arkansas. Put your next manufacturing facility here,’” Hutchinson said.

And there are what the governor refers to as “the intangibles,” including the “pretty exciting” fact that Arkansas is playing “an integral role” in the production of a foundational element of the world economy.

Assistant Editor Kyle Massey wrote in August about the history of Arkansas’ steel industry and the companies that were there from the start — names including Nucor Corp., Lexicon Inc. and then Big River Steel, which took the local industry to a new level. In 2022, Arkansas adds an exciting chapter to that story.

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