Thu, Jan 13, 2022 12:00 PM
By Kim Jarrett | The Center Square, The Center Square
(The Center Square) – Tax packages passed by the Arkansas Legislature in December and incentives offered by Mississippi County were key in bringing U.S. Steel to northeast Arkansas, state officials said.
The company is planning to break ground on a new steel plant in Osceola during the first quarter and have the plant fully operational by 2024, according to a news release.
The $3 billion steel mill will employ 900 people at an average wage of $100,000 a year. The project represents the largest economic development and largest payroll impact ever in Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.
The state was in competition with Mississippi and Alabama for the plant, Hutchinson said Wednesday. State lawmakers passed a bill that gives an income tax credit for waste reduction, reuse or recycling equipment during a special session in December. The bill specified the equipment must be in or next to a steel facility that invested at least $2 billion in the state and create 700 or more new jobs. A second bill passed during the session allowed state officials to transfer $50 million from the general revenue allotment reserve fund to Quick Action Closing Fund.
"Because they gave us those tools and resources, it allowed us to present a very aggressive package to U.S. Steel, which ultimately helped us in bringing this deal together," Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said.
Mississippi County made the deal sweeter. Local officials are offering to pay workers 10% of the cost of a new residence that costs at least $200,000 and is less than $500,000 as an incentive for them to live in the county.
The county also implemented a half-cent sales tax for economic development after losing 9,000 jobs in the 1990s, Hutchinson said. The sales tax funds the Great River Economic Development Foundation (GREDF), according to the county's website. The efforts have led to the recovery of 5,000 jobs, Hutchinson said.
The county also is the second-highest steel producing county in the country, according to GREDF's website.
“Mississippi County has become a national leader in steel production, and U. S. Steel’s decision to create ‘the steel mill of the future’ in this community continues to underscore why,” Preston said. “Not only does Arkansas have a trained workforce, a reliable electrical grid, and easy access to river, rail, and highways, but it also has a governor, a General Assembly, and numerous community partners and stakeholders who recognize the importance of broadening economic opportunities for Arkansans and who will go the extra mile to compete for those opportunities."