Steel Mills

Big River Steel 550 Days from Making Steel

Written by John Packard

Steel Market Update attended the groundbreaking ceremony for Big River Steel in Osceola, Arkansas which was held on Monday, September 22nd. According to Big River Steel Chairman and CEO John Correnti (and the sign at the entrance to the work site), the mill will be making steel in 550 days.

A groundbreaking ceremony is much like a love fest. Speakers thanked all of those associated with getting the product off the ground and moving forward. From the head of economic development for the state of Arkansas, the mayor of Osceola, the circuit judge for the county, to Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, all sang the praises of the largest economic development project in the state.

Governor Beebe pointed out that Mississippi County in Arkansas will be either the first or second largest steel producing county in the United States when the Big River Steel project has been completed.  

The governor added, “The world looks to America for leadership. To remain there you have to make stuff.” He went on to point out that manufacturing is “re-shoring” or returning to the United States as, “American pride and patriotism are rewarding companies who make stuff here.”

“Big River Steel,” he said, “is icing on the cake.”

John Correnti was introduced by Dickie Kennemore, the Mayor of Osceola, as the “godfather of Mississippi County.” Those assembled laughed. The mayor continued, “I call him godfather of Mississippi County. With a name like Correnti what better name than godfather… He won’t take no for an answer.”  The mayor went on to speak about the “biggest industrial project to ever come to the state of Arkansas” and the two year process of making it a reality. “He [Correnti] wants to help the workers. He has affected the lives of thousands of people in this county.”

The major competitor, Nucor, also has steel facilities at the northern end of the county and has been fighting to prevent the mill from being built. At the time of the groundbreaking there was still a legal challenge to the Big River Steel air permit which Big River Steel CEO John Correnti termed, “frivolous legal nonsense…It’s a bunch of poppycock.” He went on to say, “There is no need to drive a wedge between the citizens of Mississippi County.”

SMU spoke with Mark Bula, Chief Commercial Officer for Big River Steel just prior to the ceremony. He told us, “If a company or if an industry doesn’t innovate than it is natural to lobby and litigate in order to protect your market.”

Big River Steel believes it will have the best cost structure with the latest technology including the highest air quality standards for any EAF steel mill in the world.  They believe they will be able to compete for value-added customers which include advanced high strength steels and a full range of API pipe grades.

The customers must be interested as there were a number of pipe and tube companies as well as major service centers at the ceremony.

The bottom line is site preparation began in mid-July 2014 on the 1400 acre site. When completed, Big River Steel will be able to produce 1.6 million tons of flat rolled steel products and will employ approximately 450 employees.

The site has been called “steel heaven” by John Correnti due to its proximity to a power station and the BNSF railroad, location close to I-55, and direct access to the Mississippi River.

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