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Thank god for Mississippi (County).

FOLKS IN THE NORTHEAST corner of the state--well, Mississippi County--got some potentially good news last week with the announcement that it is one of three potential sites for a $700 million steel mill that would employ 450 workers.

For longer than the people of that county care to reflect on, it has had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. At the end of June, it was 15.2 percent, while the state average was 5.6 percent.

Naturally, we're pulling for the mill to be built in Mississippi County. It needs a break.

Yes, the county is home to two other steel mills. Nucor Corp. operates a mill at Hickman on the Mississippi River east of Blytheville. Nucor also is a partner with Yamato Kogyo Co. Ltd. of Japan in the nearby Nucor-Yamato mill. The two mills employ about 1,250 people.

From the looks of public documents, SteelCorr Inc. has been working on the details of the plant for a year or more. Applications for approval of environmental issues can be found at the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Web site. Fairly detailed plans for the plant can be found at the Web site of the Memphis district of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The primary holdup appears to be in getting the financing lined up. And details of a wholesale contract for electrical service still must be worked out.

As this issue deals with economic development and various ways incentives are being used, or misused, it stands to reason that a project of this size--it very nearly meets the criteria of a "super project" under the proposed Amendment 2--will seek and get local and state incentives.

One good thing about the project, if it happens, would be the projected salaries. Employees would get salaries and production bonuses averaging $70,000 annually, according to one news report, with average benefits per employee worth another $25,000 a year.

Those are the kind jobs Arkansas needs. New retail developments are fine for property taxes, but they don't generate the kind of wages that improves a depressed area's standard of living.

The type of steel the mill would produce would supply "various automobile manufacturing facilities in the Southeast."

The state's economic development leaders, meeting last week, were reminded that Arkansas might do just as well by going after auto supply companies as it would in seeking to land the coveted assembly plant. They actually provide more jobs, those at the Arkansas Economic Developers convention were told.

Denso Corp., a Toyota Motors Corp. subsidiary, is constructing a parts plant at Osceola that eventually will employ 500 in Mississippi County.

Hino Motors Ltd., another Toyota subsidiary, has broken ground on a $160 million truck parts plant at Marion, just south of Mississippi County in Crittenden County, and rumors continue that it could eventually build a truck manufacturing plant there.

And just west of Marion, at Wynne in Cross County, another Japanese parts plant is being built by Eakas Corp. that eventually could employ 250.

Things finally appear to be looking up for that part of the Delta. Thank God.
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Title Annotation:SteelCorr Inc
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Aug 23, 2004
Words:519
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