You probably knew that Big River Steel is building an advanced $3 billion mill in Osceola, the largest economic development project in state history.
You likely didn’t know that the chief contractor, Jim Bell, vice president for construction for owner U.S. Steel Corp., was completing what he called “an interesting, interesting circle.”
He started his career in 1988, building the Nucor-Yamato plant in Blytheville, about 10 miles from Osceola in Mississippi County in northeast Arkansas.
“Jim’s group has built five to seven different capacities of steel plants over the last 35 years,” said Daniel Brown, Big River’s chief operating officer.
“We were building these types of mills for Nucor, and the team stayed together,” Bell told Whispers. “We traveled from project to project throughout the country building steel mills, and I just so happened to land back here in Osceola, in the same county I cut my teeth in 35 years ago.”
After four years at Nucor, Bell joined Lexicon Inc. of Little Rock and at age 25 was construction and plant maintenance manager for Schueck Steel, now Lexicon’s construction division. Lexicon is a primary contractor in building the new Big River facility.
Bell became Big River’s construction manager in 2014 and was in that post when U.S. Steel completed its acquisition of BRS in 2021. He was named vice president for construction in June of that year.
“More automation is probably one of the largest things I’ve seen over the years in [steel mill] construction,” Bell said. “It’s nice to have automation, but you have to find the talent and resources to operate and understand it.”