Governor, U.S. Steel executives break ground on $3 billion steel mill in Osceola

by Paul Holmes ([email protected]) 1,676 views 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (right) at the groundbreaking of U.S.Steel's $3 billion steel mill in Osceola.

U.S. Steel execs and Arkansas officials broke ground Tuesday (Feb. 8) on the largest economic development project in Arkansas history, a $3 billion steel mill at Osceola. U.S. Steel President and CEO Dave Burritt said it will be “the most technologically advanced mini-mill on the planet” when completed in 2024.

The mill will be built on a tract adjacent to the existing Big River Steel mill, which U.S. Steel acquired on Jan. 15. U.S. Steel had acquired a portion of the Big River Steel previously.

Burritt said his company, which has what he called a “big carbon footprint,” faces a number of challenges. The company must “go green” and it faces capital intensity and competition intensity, Burritt said.

“We’re catching them and we’re moving very fast. We have the best mini-mill in North America with Big River Steel and it’s going to be better,” Burritt said of competition in the industry.

Both Burritt and Gov. Asa Hutchinson mentioned speed when describing the project. Officials from U.S. Steel and the state of Arkansas had their first meeting on the project this past September.

Hutchinson noted that the permitting process was completed and the state of Arkansas beat out a host of other states for the project. He thanked members of the General Assembly for passing the necessary extended recycling credits that facilitated the project. All but four members of the Legislature voted for that measure, Hutchinson said, telling Burritt “they’re not coming back so don’t worry about them.”

Hutchinson also referenced how state, county and local officials all cooperated closely in order to make the project a reality in Osceola.

Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said “economic development is a team sport.” Preston said the state’s speed in taking all the necessary steps helped win this project over other states that were in the running. He has said people should pay attention to this groundbreaking at U.S. Steel, which he said is a technology company that makes steel. Both Preston and Burritt said U.S. Steel is committed to reducing its carbon footprint to zero by 2050.

Preston called the mill, which will employ 900 people at annual salaries of up to $120,000, a generational project.

The new optimized steel production facility is expected to feature two electric arc furnaces (EAFs) with 3 million tons per year of advanced steelmaking capability, a state-of-the-art endless casting and rolling line, and advanced finishing capabilities. Upon completion, the project will apply to become LEED-certified, the company said.

Hutchinson said the mill puts Arkansas on the map, better positioning the state for automakers who are looking for a place to locate another auto assembly plant. He also said the new still mill represents growth and economic opportunity for the next generation of Arkansans.

State Sen. Dave Wallace, R-Leachville, who carried the legislation for the extended recycling tax credits, agreed the project will be transformational for Arkansas and the region. As a young man, Wallace said, he chopped cotton for 60 cents an hour.

“Now, our young men and women are going to make in excess of $120,000 per year, right here in Mississippi County,” he said.

Hutchinson said the mill will also boost the real estate and residential construction sectors of the local economy. “Builders go where the need is,” he said, noting the industrial community and Mississippi county officials are working on a program to assist people moving to Osceola for a job at the new plant in purchasing a home.

When asked “why Arkansas” for the huge investment of a new steel mill, Burritt said, “They love us and we love them.”