guest commentary from the office of Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe
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This week, Arkansas landed the largest economic-development project in its history. Big River Steel plans to build a $1.1 billion steel mill near Osceola that will employ 525 people. The plant will make steel for auto-, oil-and-gas and electrical-energy industries. With salaries of more than $75,000, these jobs will pay double the average annual income for Arkansans. Elevating the standard of living for our people has long been the focus of my administration, and this new mill will do just that for hundreds of families in the Arkansas Delta.
Big River Steel's economic effect will be felt beyond its 525 employees. Approximately 2,000 construction jobs will be created to build the plant. Many more permanent jobs will potentially be created by related businesses, such as suppliers and customers that decide to locate near the new mill. This part of Arkansas, which has long suffered from high unemployment and a dwindling population, will benefit greatly from this new economic engine.
Before this deal is finalized, the Legislature must approve the project. In 2004, Arkansas voters gave legislators authority to issue bonds to help attract large-scale economic-development projects. Legislative leaders will ensure that all due diligence and reviews are executed. Many in the General Assembly have expressed their excitement about this project's implications for our State.
This new mill will make Mississippi County the second-largest steel-producing county in the United States. Already, Nucor employs about 1,600 people in the area. For both of these companies, and for other smaller steel companies in Mississippi County, Arkansas's geography and infrastructure are major attractions. Big River Steel's CEO, John Correnti, lauded this site's accessibility to the Mississippi River, to rail lines, Interstate 55, and adequate energy sources.
Correnti also called Arkansas's economic-development team the best in the nation. They represent our State with an outstanding level of professionalism and present Arkansas in the attractive light it deserves. They're also diverse in their hard work. While the Big River Steel announcement was historic, it wasn't the only good news that AEDC helped come to fruition this week.
We also announced the arrival of an Internet marketing and technology company to Conway. The company, called Inuvo, will move its corporate headquarters from New York to the Natural State. Within four years, Inuvo expects to create 50 high-paying jobs for highly skilled Arkansans.
While both companies will pay their employees well above the average wage in Arkansas, Inuvo and Big River Steel seek Arkansans with very different skill sets. This demonstrates that we are successfully showing business leaders throughout the country that we have a diverse workforce ready for new jobs.
Arkansas will continue our tradition as a well-suited center for manufacturing and will continue attracting companies like Big River Steel. But as the economy has become more knowledge-based, Arkansas's workforce has changed with it and will also attract more technology companies, like Inuvo. These two announcements made for a great week in Arkansas and signal the even greater future that awaits our State.