by Tyler Hale
Nucor Steel Arkansas cut the ribbon on its new $230 million cold mill facility in Hickman today. Nucor executives, along with state lawmakers and economic development officials, gathered at the facility in Northeast Arkansas for the ceremony.
This new expansion is designed to increase Nucor’s ability to produce automotive grade steel, increasing the quantity of products the company produces for the automotive industry. Specifically, Nucor will be producing “advanced high-strength, high-strength low-alloy and motor lamination steel products,” according to a release from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
Nucor has hired approximately 100 new workers specifically for the cold mill project.
“Nucor is a great partner for Arkansas and this industry leader continues to invest in our communities. This is another vote of confidence in our workforce, and another tremendous win for Mississippi County,” Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston told Arkansas Money & Politics in an e-mailed statement.
According to Mississippi County economic director Clif Chitwood, the new cold mill facility will help lay the groundwork for the region’s future in the steel industry.
“We have three large mills, with this new expansion of Nucor’s simply adding capability to make more of the emerging specialty steels that will lay an ever greater part of the steel market in the coming years and decades,” he says. “It’s always reassuring when a big company such as Nucor invests in, this case, almost a quarter of $1 billion in a facility. It shows a long term commitment to the area and to the workforce.
Keeping the cold mill in Mississippi County and Arkansas was critical, Chitwood says. Once Nucor decided to build the facility, he says local and state officials began advocating to have the facility in Arkansas.
“It was competitive. Every time that Nucor expands, we have to compete with every other Nucor mill in the United States, so it was a combination [of factors. The governor and Mike Preston were very aggressive,” Chitwood says. “It’s not just the dollars, but the willingness to put the dollars and any investment [to work] that I think proves to all of our companies that we’re serious about being good partners.”
Mississippi County, where the Nucor Steel Arkansas facility is located, has become a major steel center, not only in Arkansas but nationally. Nucor operates four facilities in Arkansas – all in Mississippi County. Osceola’s Big River Steel mill also operates in Mississippi County.
The large mills are a major part of the area’s growth, but Chitwood says the strength of the region’s steel industry is also driven by smaller companies and suppliers who provide services to the mills.
“We don’t always read about the smaller companies. People are coming in and employing 50 people to provide a service for the mills – or 20 people or 30 people. But if you put several of those together, you have 500 or 600 people. That’s what makes a steel center – not just a big mill, a lonely mill standing out there by itself. It’s the trained [workforce] and suppliers,” he says.
Image courtesy of Arkansas Economic Development Commission