Alabama makes major #8216;steel#039;

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 12, 2007

Local leaders see nothing but good coming from a decision by ThyssenKrupp, a giant German steel plant, to select a south Alabama site near Calvert and Mount Vernon to build its new $3.7 billion plant.

&#8220From what I understand,” Jesse McWilliams, chairman of the Butler County Commission, said, &#8220nothing compares with the size of this project. Hyundai was easily the biggest thing we've been a part of. This project is even more significant.”

More than 29,000 workers will spend nearly two years to develop the plant, a state-of-the-art steel and stainless steel processing facility that will ultimately employ 2,700 people full time and generate another 35,000 to 50,000 indirect positions over a 20-year period.

&#8220It's an exciting opportunity for our area,” added Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon. &#8220We'll do everything we can to contact folks who might see us as a possible location for support. There could be a ripple effect. That the railway runs from Mobile through Greenville will be important to us.”

Rickey McLaney, director of the Butler County Commission for Economic Development, sees immediate impact on companies like Richway Transportation Service of Georgiana and perhaps costs benefits for existing plans like Hysco America, which could get a price break of steel because of its close proximity to the new plant.

&#8220We may be on the outer circle in hopes to land a supplier,” he said, &#8220but it's too early to tell. We'll see what happens. It's a project that could create other competitive options.”

ThyssenKrupp announced Friday morning it had chosen Alabama over a similar offer from Louisiana, ending a process that began in February 2006 with 67 potential sites in 20 states and gradually was narrowed to Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana, then two, Louisiana and Alabama.

To get the company, the state offered a $400 million incentive package that included a 10-year exclusion for certain utility taxes, an additional 10 years for abatement of ad valorem taxes, up to 20 years and an additional 10 years for capital credit, up to 30 years at 5 percent a year.

Louisiana's competing package was structured differently, but was similar in scope.

&#8220Three points may have been the real difference,” McLaney said, comparing the options. &#8220Louisiana roads are bad and hard to maintain. Finding skilled labor there is harder since Hurricane Katrina and a lot of people simply left the area. And, finally, Gov. (Kathleen) Blanco announced she isn't seeking re-election, so concerns about with whom they'll work is uncertain.”

McLendon, saying the city and county will &#8220do everything we can” to work closely with the Alabama Development Office (ADO) and industrial prospects, suggesting &#8220if a company sees us as a good site, we'll find the property they need.”

He praised the &#8220tireless” work of Gov. Bob Riley and ADO director Neal Wade.

Saying, &#8220it's a great day for Alabama” he said it could be an even brighter opportunity for Georgiana and McKenzie than Greenville, noting those Butler County communities are 15 to 20 minutes closer to the plant site.

McWilliams agreed, pointing to the recent approval of funds for a new K-12 school at Georgiana as an example of &#8220doing what it takes” to make folks understand the area's commitment to the future.

&#8220We're not sitting back and simply waiting for things to happen,” he said. &#8220Development of the industrial park, that is now full, on Highway 31 and passing the sales tax for our new school shows people we're serious about education and economic development.”

McLaney also praised Riley and Wade, but also recognized work with German plants back in the 70s, led by former Gov. George Wallace, as foundation forming.

Construction should begin by year's end and be in production by 2010. McLaney expects creation of a new road to Interstate 65 from the site since most truck traffic will be northbound.

The new facility will have an annual capacity of 4.1 million metric tons of carbon steel end products, include a hot strip mill used primarily to process slabs from a sister plant in Brazil and will serve a variety of industries including automotive, construction, electrical and utility in addition to serving manufacturers of appliances, precision machinery and engineered products.