OSCEOLA, AR - "It's one thing putting up a sign saying Arkansas is open for business," says Big River Steel CEO John Correnti. "Guess what, that sign is now flashing."
He's talking about the project to build a $1.3 billion steel mill at Osceola in Mississippi County on what was once just an open field in rural Arkansas.
Today, the deal is done. Big River Steel officially closes on a steel mill in northeast Arkansas.
It's expected to pour more than 1.5 million tons of steel a year.
Osceola Mayor Dickie Kennemore calls it a home run for a region hit hard economically.
"Our employment has been high and we've struggled. Yes, we think we are the bright and shining star of the Delta and of northeast Arkansas now and I am giddy," Kennemore says.
The project will be paid for in part with state general revenue bonds, thanks to the legislature supported Amendment 82.
"I think it sends a message to the business community and the world that we're ready to do these kinds of projects. It can be accomplished here," says Grant Tennille, Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
In phase 1, Big River will employ 325 workers at an average annual salary of $75,000.
Applicants need a high school education. Two years in a community college is a plus, but not required.
Correnti has no doubts when it comes to Arkansas' workforce.
"Let me tell you, our Arkansas farm boys they'll out work, out produce, out think anybody in the world. I've seen it before and I've seen it happen time and time again," he says.
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