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US Steel Breaks Ground on Arkansas' Largest Economic Development Project: Area to Feel Economic Impa

Groundbreaking ceremonies occurred Tuesday morning in Osceola for the newest steel plant. KASU’s Johnathan Reaves tells about the impacts of the announcement, and how Osceola is getting ready.

In 2016, Big River Steel started operations in Osceola. The one-point-three-billion dollar facility employs 700 people in the small town and surrounding communities. With Nucor Steel in Blytheville in the northern part of Mississippi county, and Big River Steel in the southern part, the northeast Arkansas county is now one of the leading steel manufacturing counties in the United States. That was before Tuesday’s announcement of another steel mill, which will be located right next to Big River Steel. U-S Steel is building a three-billion-dollar steel mill, that will make steel for automobiles, appliances, and construction projects. With the thousands of workers building the mill over the next two years, and 900 new jobs at the mill when operational, Osceola’s population is expected to swell beyond the current numbers of 7,000 that live there now. President and C-E-O of U-S Steel Davit Burritt says he is excited to be in Arkansas and says they will be community partners with Osceola.

“I asked the mayor [Sally Wilson] what do you need,” says Burritt. “We want this to be a model community that people can live in. We like everyone to understand that steel making is high tech. So we are creating the jobs that will stay in this community for generations to come. We want to build community centers and do other things that can contribute to the community. This community wanted us here and we are glad to be here.”

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson tells what this means for the state.

“This is a game changer in Arkansas,” says Hutchinson. “It not only changes the present, but it also changes the future. This is the largest economic development project in the history of Arkansas. US Steel is a global company and they love the state and will continue to invest here. They will also market the state as well, so this is great day for the state.”

Hutchinson hinted that the kind of steel this plant would produce could be attractive for an automotive production plant to come to the state. Previous attempts to bring such a factory to West Memphis have been unsuccessful. Burritt was asked about this possibility.

“Well, I can’t comment on what auto company might be coming here,” says Burritt. “It would be an incredible thing for us if we had a partner that was close by because that makes costs a lot lower when we have companies working together and they are not that far apart. It also can attract more people to come and it creates a virtuous circle for the state.”

I asked Osceola Mayor Sally Wilson about how the city was preparing for the influx of people that will come to Osceola.

“The city has a comprehensive 2040 plan that allows for us to do some expansion in some areas of town for more housing and other needs for the city,” says Wilson. “One huge player in this has been Arkansas Northeastern College with their Arkansas Steel Academy. They listened to what the local steel industry was needing and have developed curriculum around those needs and when people graduate, they are placed into those jobs.”

The U-S Steel plant will be LEED certified and pledges to eliminate carbon emissions by 2040. Burritt calls the jobs technologically and environmentally responsible and says this will pave the way for steel making in the future.

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