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Fighting Fairly (Editorial)

2 min read

An Arkansas Business reader calling himself “cwbird” shared his opinions about U.S. steel production, environmental regulations and Nucor Steel’s effort to block construction of John Correnti’s Big River Steel plant in Mississippi County. In his comments, cwbird said:

“Now we have a steel producer [Nucor] that should be concentrating on hammering foreign producers and taking market share from imports that is using environmentalism to keep competition down and, therefore, keep U.S. steel imports up. How much more stupid can you get?”

Using the government regulatory process to block a competitor signals an unwillingness to fight on the traditional market battlefields of price, quality and efficiency. We’re sure it’s happened before, but it’s neither good business nor good policy.

And then, of course, there’s the whole hypocrisy factor: Nucor claims that the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has a conflict in regulating the mill because of the state’s financial support for the plant. But back in 1987, when Nucor and Yamato Kogyo Co. announced the joint venture for their $175 million steel mill in Blytheville, it was on the condition that the Arkansas Legislature approve tax breaks for the enterprise. Nucor-Yamato got them, just as the legislature earlier this year approved support for Big River.

Or maybe Nucor is taking a cue from some insurance companies (see the cover story by Senior Editor Mark Friedman) that gamble on court-adjudicated resolution of conflicts because they figure time is on their side. The courthouse is the proper forum for many disputes, but relying on the courts to pick winners and losers in capitalism is a step on the slipperiest of slopes.

Buck up, Nucor. Try competing fairly.

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