St. James may still get huge steel mill

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 15, 2008

WASHINGTON – United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and Congressman Charlie Melancon, D-La., announced that steel-maker Nucor Corporation has applied for the necessary permits to build the first U.S. raw materials mill in 30 years in St. James Parish.

Pending necessary permit and legislative approvals, the Nucor mill is expected to generate 500 permanent jobs paying an average of $75,000 a year, with 70 to 80 percent of workers hired locally. Additional employee benefits include $3,000 a year for workers’ children to go to college, and the company intends to invest $850,000 annually in the local school board to enhance workforce education.

According to Nucor’s application, the mill will be built on the banks of the Mississippi River near Convent, La. It is on the same site that German steel manufacturer ThyssenKrupp AG considered last year. Nucor worked with former Governor Kathleen Blanco and Governor Bobby Jindal on its decision to come to St. James Parish, and would be building on an even bigger footprint than ThyssenKrupp was planning. The company’s plan is to produce raw material steel known as “pig iron,” normally imported from China, Russia or Brazil.

The company also plans to build a port facility at the site to transport the material to finishing plants nationwide.

Sen. Landrieu and Rep. Melancon have long championed economic investment in the parish, and are committed to boosting South Louisiana’s economic recovery from the 2005 hurricanes. Sen. Landrieu recently included language in a Senate-passed housing bill to give Gulf Coast businesses greater flexibility to take advantage of increased bonus depreciation for construction of commercial properties and residential rental properties. The provision means about $308 million in tax benefits to Gulf Coast businesses and residential development. Both Sen. Landrieu and Rep. Melancon are working to ensure this language remains in the bill following Senate and House negotiations.

The Nucor project, as currently envisioned, is expected to generate 2,000 near-term construction jobs and an estimated 2,600 additional jobs in the community to support the mill and its workers. Nucor also has a mill in Arkansas, which according to one academic study, created an 8 to 1 “job ripple effect” in the wider community – for each Nucor worker employed, eight jobs were born in the local economy. If Nucor moves on to a second phase of development, the company would invest an additional $1 billion in the mill, and create another 250 permanent jobs for a total of 750.

Nucor employs 20,000 in 21 states and is on the BusinessWeek 50, which ranks top performing companies based on the return on investment and sales. It is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina.