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Blytheville boom: plant expansions keep cropping up in Mississippi County's industrial triangle.

HAVING MORE THAN $24 million worth of additional capital investment completed by industry is a nice way to start off the year.

The Blytheville area has bathed in the afterglow of a series of improvements during the past three months. The big three to come on line are:

* Huntco Inc., $3 million-plus. The company distributes and processes carbon, flat-rolled steel.

* Coil-Tec Inc., $10 million. The flat-rolled processing center produces coils into slit coils and related products at its Armorel plant.

* Maverick Tube Corp., $11.3 million. The company produces tubing and casing for the oil and natural gas industries.

And this trio doesn't include the January announcement that Friedman Industry Inc. is building a steel processing facility in Hickman.

The plant initially will employ 12-15 workers, a foundation from which future expansions will be launched.

Nucor-Yamato Steel Co. is building an 800,000-SF-plus large section beam mill that will add 130-160 new jobs. The capital investment on this project, which will be completely on line in July, is more than $220 million.

"Mississippi County with its growing steel plants and more has got to be one of the state's most highly industrialized counties now," says Jerry Bohannon, executive vice-president of the Blytheville Area Chamber of Commerce.

"I don't have anything to substantiate that claim, but we have got to be among the top five and perhaps top three."

The county's success revolves on its well-rounded durable manufacturing base and transportation network with Interstate 55, the Mississippi River and Burlington Northern Railroad.

Transportation Hub

The Blytheville area is becoming a transportation hub, and some might even say a freight mecca, because of traffic generated by industry.

Burlington Northern is investing an estimated $3 million to build a new rail yard east of Blytheville to handle the increased freight demands of the growing steel plants.

On the 18-wheel front, a variety of trucking firms have set up terminals in the area, while others are looking for locations to tap into the shipping. But the natural amenity of the Mississippi River and the savings afforded for bulk freight is the key transportation attraction.

"The water shipping rates are just tremendously attractive to heavy shippers," Bohannon says.

Both primary and secondary economic growth in the area are helping negate the closing of Eaker Air Force Base and all its ramifications.

"This has offset the impact of the base closure, and we're actively recruiting industry to fill up the empty base," Bohannon says.

He and other economic boosters are expecting more good news to follow on the industrial front in the coming months, too.

Industrial recruiters envision converting the sprawling military complex into yet another area of vibrant development. Perhaps some of the expected announcements will dovetail with that effort.
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Title Annotation:Across Arkansas: Northeast
Author:Waldon, George
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:May 3, 1993
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