Nucor leaders discuss future with county mayors
Every month, County Judge Randy Carney holds a "mayor's meeting" somewhere in the county. The most recent one was hosted by Blytheville Mayor James Sanders and was sponsored by Nucor.
Area Mississippi County mayors, along with State Senator Dave Wallace (R-Leachville), Rep. Monte Hodges (D-Blytheville) and Rep. Johnny Rye, Jr. (R-Trumann) and other area elected officials and dignitaries met at the Holiday Inn Tuesday at lunch to network, discuss issues around the county and to hear a presentation by Nucor regarding the company's investment in the county and ongoing expansion.
Speaking on behalf of Nucor were Keith Prevost (Controller at Nucor-Yamato Steel), Randy Henderson (Nucor Castrip Arkansas) and Keith Williams (Nucor Hickman Cold Mill Manager).
Sanders began the luncheon by saying that Nucor is, "One of the great corporate partners of the county and not just of the city of Blytheville, but also of the entire region."
Prevost told the large group of all the investments and expansions that Nucor has made in Mississippi County. He explained that the latest $230 million "quench and self tempering" (QST) expansion, announced in September will position Nucor to be able to make products that aren't even invented yet. He explained that the process was similar to when a blacksmith makes a horseshoe and he dips the hot iron into water, thereby making it stronger.
He said, "Itís just like that, but with a piece of steel that weighs 700 pounds per foot of length."
He explained that when the expansion is completed, it will be the only North American facility to make the new product. It was also explained that the project is running slightly behind internal goals, but that it is still months ahead of the announced completion date.
"But none of our success or these investments could be possible without some of the state leaders and the city and county leaders in this room," Prevost said.
He further said that both of the major remodels were accomplished with minimal downtime, but that "it took a lot of ingenuity" by some talented engineers around the world.
Williams said that it was very exciting to be able to speak before the group about the things going on at Nucor. He explained how the market place is rapidly changing and about to speed up even more, particularly with the automotive sector, therefore Nucor's new products will be in great demand.
"Some of the products aren't even in existence yet...automotive cafe standards by the year 2525 must be at 55 miles per gallon. How many of you here have a car that gets 55 miles per gallon?" Williams asked.
When no one answered in the affirmative, he said, "Then you can see that there are going to be drastic changes in the next 10 years."
He spoke of new steel needed that would be strong, yet substantially lighter than existing cars. He also spoke about the need for the stronger steel to build engines for electric cars.
He concluded by explaining why Nucor Arkansas was able to confidence their corporate executives in Charlotte, North Carolina to invest such large sums in the Mississippi County facilities. He said they boiled down to two reasons: the people and their track record.
"The track record of Nucor-Yamato and Hickman is really unprecedented," he added.
He also said that they have a lot of faith in those in the room.
"When we have a problem and ask for help, those in this room help us. Maintaining this atmosphere allows us to bring this investment here," Williams added.
Harrison also spoke and began by saying, "I love Mississippi County. I was born and raised here. I've been at Nucor for 21 years and my job is to manage the front end of the castrip and community relations."
He began to detail reasons why Nucor invests so much back into the community and why it is important to them to be good corporate partners.
Sanders and Carney both followed by reiterating the Nucor has been a good corporate partner not only through the employment they offer, but also through community service. Manila Mayor Wayne Wagner asked to speak, and stated that just the night before there had been 300-400 people at the Manila park surrounding "Little League baseball and softball" and that there are many teams sponsored either by Nucor or by one of its subsidiaries. Therefore, "We in Manila consider Nucor a part of our community as well."
When the question and answer portion of the program began, Carney said he would begin questions by asking, "Three years ago Nucor was the biggest enemy of Big River Steel, but it appears that since they are here, Nucor has blossomed. Is there a relationship now between the two?"
Prevost said, "That is a tough question. Big River is a tough competitor. I was just speaking with Senator Wallace a few minutes ago about a bill that came up the other day, that was spearheaded by BRS but we supported it, so I guess you can call that a relationship of sorts. But...we can compete with anyone in the world as long as we have a level playing field. I'm not going to say we're buddies."
Rye also expressed his desire, and the desire of his legislative peers that were present, to help the steel industry as much as they can, because they recognize how important they are to the local community.