Arkansas’ newest steel mill will be built faster than it would have been permitted in Pennsylvania, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday (May 11).
In a speech before the Arkansas Trucking Association’s Annual Business Conference & Vendor Showcase in Hot Springs, Hutchinson recalled a conversation he had with U.S. Steel President and CEO David Burritt. The company recently announced it was building a $3 billion steel factory in Osceola that is expected to create 900 jobs with an average salary of more than $100,000.
“He came to see me, and he said that Arkansas will permit that steel mill, we will build that steel mill, and we’ll have it open for business before you could ever get a permit to even start construction in Pennsylvania,” Hutchinson said.
“Now that is the easy environment that we want to create in Arkansas to do business. And there’s the result of all that, is that Arkansas soon will pass Pennsylvania as the number one steel-producing state in the nation.”
The governor said he hopes to be remembered for having a “pro-growth agenda.”
The governor hit on national issues in a speech that followed his increasingly frequent national media appearances. He is considering running for president during the 2024 elections.
He said America’s supply chain must be less “China-centric” and that retailers and manufacturers should find other countries that support the rule of law, understand the United States, and are aligned with this country regarding national security. Essential products like medical supplies and electronic components should be produced domestically. Seaports need to be modernized.
He said security was tightened along the border when he was an undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security responsible for border and transportation security. When he talked with officials responsible for the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit to Canada, he would ask how long the wait times were. He said that question was as important as those related to security concerns.
“That principal of balance is necessary for today’s world,” he said. “In today’s world, we continue to have security issues, we continue to inspect. We have to keep that flow of commerce moving, and the trucking industry is a great partner.”
The governor said he had made tough decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying, “I didn’t run to be a governor during a pandemic. I’m not sure I could have defined ‘pandemic’ for you, and I sure didn’t know what the coronavirus was. But that was what fell to my lap, and it fell to your lap, and you had to lead during this time.”
He said he began receiving letters from various industries asking to be declared “essential” so they could stay open. He said he decided all of them that provided jobs for families were essential.
Likewise, the governor pointed to his decision, after closing public schools to on-site instruction in the spring of 2020, to reopen them during the fall of 2021. He said he had remained on that path even though cases were going up and schools across the country were kept closed. One study found Arkansas ranked second in its percentage of in-classroom instruction days during the pandemic.
“I like to underscore that point just a little bit by saying, yes, we beat Texas and we beat Florida,” he said.