Correnti Gives Update On Big River Steel Project

by Michael Wilkey ([email protected]) 186 views 

The Mississippi River is a wonderful resource while a plot of land where a $1.3 billion steel mill is being built is definitely “Steel Mill Heaven,” the CEO of Big River Steel told a state commission Friday (July 24).

John Correnti spoke to the Arkansas Waterways Commission about the steel mill project, which is expected to be completed by July 2016.

The commission met at the Osceola City Hall for its quarterly meeting, with commissioners hearing from Correnti and Rick Ellis, an official with Mid River Terminal.

The Arkansas legislature approved a $125 million bond issue in the 2013 session for the project, which is expected to create 525 jobs at the mill.

Correnti said the past nearly two years have been both fantastic and frustrating. However, he said the project benefits from having three key infrastructure advantages.

First, the 1,300 acre site along U.S. 61 is near the Mississippi River. Second, a 500-kilovolt utility line is in the area while a Burlington Northern railroad line runs through the area, Correnti told commissioners.

Correnti said the project has received a lot of support from state and local officials. He credited former Gov. Mike Beebe and current Gov. Asa Hutchinson for helping make the project a reality.

Correnti said in addition to the 525 people who will work there, there are between 500 and 600 people who will work in satellite industries including suppliers.

As for construction, Correnti told commissioners that around 600 construction workers are currently working feverishly to help build the mill.

By the end of construction, officials are hopeful that nearly 2,000 construction workers will be on site to build the mill.

The work has translated to 235,000 cubic yards of concrete being poured, with steel framework being built, Correnti said.

The first trip for Correnti to Arkansas was in 1985.

Correnti said he arrived in the state with a “great taste in his mouth,” ready to start work.

“I am here because of the river and the Arkansas farm boys and farm girls,” Correnti said of the area’s work ethic. “We hope to have the highest paid steel workers in the world.”

Ellis said nearly 125 people work at his business, which helps put floating docks in the Mississippi River for companies to offload material.

The docks are movable and can help move rock and other materials to Big River Steel and other companies on the river, Ellis said.

Ellis said the company has moved 1.8 million tons of material so far.

Both projects received support from the commission’s chairman, Travis Justice of Little Rock.

“You can tell there is passion in the air about the project,” Justice said.

The commission also heard from Vickie Watson, an official with the United States Army Corps of Engineers office in Memphis.

Watson gave commissioners an update on a plan to dredge portions of the White River. The three-year plan will involve securing permits, clearing the land and dredging the river.

It is expected to cost around $10 million to complete with officials awaiting word from Congress on the funding, Watson said.

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