AEDC preparing to submit steel plant package

Future site of steel mill in Osceola on Highway 198
Future site of steel mill in Osceola on Highway 198

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Economic Development Department says it is finishing a package of information on the proposed $1.1 billion Big River Steel LLC mill that legislators will be able to use in deciding whether to help fund the project.

AEDC spokesman Joe Holmes said staff members are putting the final touches on the package. Legislators plan to hire a consultant to review the proposal.

The project would be the first under a measure that allows the Legislature to approve borrowing to fund a big economic project.

Mill backers want the state to borrow $125 million and give $75 million of it to help build the facility.

The developers say the mill will employ more than 500 people and that it will take 2,000 construction workers to build the factory in Osceola.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP/KAIT) - Gov. Mike Beebe has unveiled his plan to bring a $1 billion business project to Osceola.

Gov. Mike Beebe says Big River Steel, LLC will build a $1.1 billion steel mill in Osceola if legislators approve start-up funding for the project.

Big River will produce steel for the automotive, oil and gas and electrical energy industries.  Construction of the mill will take approximately 20 months from ground breaking which is expected later in 2013.

The mill will be built on an 1,100-acre plot on Highway 198.  More than 500 people with an annual average compensation of $75,000 a year will be employed there.

About 2,000 construction jobs must also be filled while the site is developed.

In his State of the State Address on Jan. 15, Gov. Beebe alluded to the project, saying, "We continue to work toward bringing new jobs and investment to Arkansas, and I plan to ask your help to bring in one of the biggest projects this State has ever seen.

Mayor Kennemore says the plot in Osceola was selected over dozens of other sites in Arkansas and Mississippi because of its location near a railroad, interstate, and the need for access to high voltage electricity and a riverfront.

"I've had some personal things with my kids and my wife that are better, but this is the best day of my life business-wise or political," Mayor Kennemore said. "I am 70 years old, and I know I don't have many more years to leave my mark on Mississippi County. I want people to remember me as somebody who helped turn it around, and it is just a God-send, just the greatest thing, and I'm on cloud nine."

Arkansas lawmakers will have to sign off on a $125 million bond-financing under Amendment 82 of the state's constitution.

The plans are contingent on approval by the legislature authorizing the state to issue $125 million in general obligation bonds under the authority of Amendment 82 and all necessary regulatory approvals.   As required by the Amendment, Governor Mike Beebe will be referring the project to the legislature for its consideration.

This is the first time Amendment 82 has been triggered since its adoption during the November 2004 general election.  It allows the state legislature to approve up to 5 percent of the state's general revenue budget to be used for bonding of super economic development projects.

The $125 million generated by the sale of the bonds will be used as follows:

  • $50 million loan to Big River Steel
  • $50 million for site preparation
  • $20 million for costs associated with piling – subsurface stabilization
  • $5 million bond issuance cost

Once Beebe refers the project to the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the legislature will have 20 working days to conduct its own independent economic impact study.  The legislation will then work its way through the committee process after which a vote of both houses of the legislature will be taken.

The agencies and companies that worked to bring Big River Steel, LLC to Arkansas include the Governor's Office, Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, Arkansas Development Finance Authority, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, Attorney General's Office, Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, Arkansas Capital Corporation and its affiliates, Mississippi County Economic Development, the City of Osceola, Entergy Arkansas, Inc., and BNSF  Railway.

All employment inquiries should be made to the Blytheville Office of the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, P.O. Box 1409, Blytheville, Arkansas  72316.  Phone 870-762-2035.

Copyright 2013 KAIT. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.