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Big River’s John Correnti Found Dead in Chicago

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John Correnti, CEO of Big River Steel, was found dead Tuesday in Chicago. He was 68. A cause of death has not been released.

Correnti was leading the $1.3 billion steel mill project being built south of Osceola in Mississippi County. In a statement, Big River said it would continue to be managed by its operating committee. (The full statement from Big River is below.)

According to the Associated Press, Correnti was in Chicago to attend a board meeting of Navistar International Corp., where he was a director.

Big River broke ground on its Osceola mill in September 2014. It represents the state’s first “superproject” under 2004 legislation allowing the state to borrow money to help lure major employers.

The state issued $125 million in bonds for the project, which is also receiving millions in other public funds and investments including:

  • $14 million from local government;
  • $125 million from the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System;
  • $10 million in training funds from the state and other incentives including sales tax refunds on building materials and equipment.

When completed, Big River will become the third major steel mill in the county joining the two mills operated by Nucor. 

“Welcome to steel mill heaven,” Correnti said at the project’s groundbreaking ceremony.

In August 2014, Nucor filed suit in federal court in an attempt to block the project and revoke its air permit issued by the state. The suit was dismissed in February, and Nucor filed an appeal.

Correnti worked for Nucor in the 1990s and led its Arkansas operations.

The Big River project is expected to employ more than 2,000 construction workers. The mill is expected to be open for business in July 2016 and once finished, Big River says it will employ more than 500 people with an average annual salary of $75,000.

Statement from Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

“I am saddened to learn of the death of John Correnti. He has been called a ‘steel man’s steel man,’ and indeed his name was synonymous with the steel industry. I know that the team he put in place in Osceola will assure the success of Big River Steel, which will be one of John’s lasting legacies. We are grateful for his commitment to Arkansas and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his extended family at Big River Steel.”

Statement from AEDC Executive Director Mike Preston:

We are extremely saddened to learn of the sudden passing of John Correnti. John was a visionary in the steel sector who was proud to call Arkansas home. We enjoyed working very closely with him on the Big River Steel project. He fought hard to make this project a reality for Arkansas. He built a strong management team and board that will be sure his vision for Big River Steel is realized.  Our thoughts and prayers are with John’s family along with the entire team at Big River Steel. 

Full statement from Big River Steel:

It is with the deepest sadness that we share news of the death of Big River Steel Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Correnti. John was 68.

John had a long and highly successful career in the steel industry. As the driving force behind numerous greenfield steel mill projects, John’s efforts led to the creation of thousands of high-paying jobs, an accomplishment that gave him great pride.

John was recognized as an early adapter of new steelmaking technologies. Over the course of his career, John worked with a number of leading technology companies, including SMS Siemag, to continually improve the efficiency of steelmaking.

Most recently, John and a group of strategic and financial investors founded Big River Steel to once again propel the industry forward. Big River Steel will be one of many legacies John leaves with us all. John was a visionary, an innovator and a leader who dedicated his career to improving the steel industry and creating opportunities for those that worked within it.

Big River Steel will continue to be managed by its operating committee.

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