Hymel: Nucor announcement a dream come true for parish

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 18, 2010



GRAMERCY – After two years of nervous tension, state and local officials breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday with the announcement that Nucor Corp. would construct a $3.5 billion steel and iron production complex on a site in Convent.

“It is a dream come true,” said St. James Parish President Dale Hymel. “It is a great win for the state and an even greater win for St. James Parish.”

Hymel said Wednesday’s announcement is the culmination of a 19-year effort to locate an industrial project on that plot of land. It is the exact site where, in 2007, former Gov. Kathleen Blanco hoped that German steel giant ThyssenKrupp would build a $5 billion steel mill. The state eventually lost that project to Alabama.

“Maybe we saved the best for last,” Hymel said. “I’ve been told this project would only cost the state one-third as much as ThyssenKrupp. This is only the beginning. I am looking forward to a long-term relationship with Nucor.”

The project is broken up into five phases spread across the next five to seven years, with the first being a $750 million direct reduced iron facility. If all five phases are completed, the complex would eventually directly employ about 1,250 people with an average yearly salary of $75,000.

“This presents a great opportunity for many people across the community to get jobs,” State Sen. Elton Aubert, D-Vacherie, said. “It’s not just about jobs at the site, there will also be dozens and dozens and dozens of indirect jobs as a result.”

Although Nucor officials had said from the beginning they preferred the St. James site, various state and local leaders were apprehensive right up until Wednesday’s announcement.

“We had been disappointed in the past, and I think we were all holding back excitement a bit,” said St. James Councilman Jason Amato of Lutcher. “I’ll be glad to see shovels go into the ground soon.”

Although the project has the potential to bring a huge economic boost to the state and the region, not all are happy about the prospect of new industry in an already industry-heavy community.

Jordan Macha, field organizer for the Delta chapter of the Sierra Club, a staunch opponent of the Nucor project, said the group is concerned the company is not being forthright with the public about the project when it comes to environmental health. She said the plant is not taking advantage of maximum available control technology when it comes to emissions standards.

“The project has changed from a pig iron facility to a direct reduced iron plant, and no one was informed publicly,” Macha said. “We are hesitant to support a new facility when they have not been up front.”

Macha said the Sierra club will be paying close attention to the re-permitting process that Nucor will now have to undergo in order to build the direct reduced iron facility.

“We want all voices to be heard,” she said. “We don’t feel that has gotten done.”

State Rep. Nickie Monica, D-LaPlace, tells a different story. Monica said he has attended all of the permitting meetings in the past and every time he said he saw a room full of residents in support of the plant.

“You never see that level of support for industry,” Monica said. “Nucor has been a good neighbor to St. James. They have been in the community and they know residents’ concerns.”