LOWNDES COUNTY — State and local officials broke ground Wednesday on two businesses could hire as many as 120 people.
Mississippi Steel Processing and New Process Steel will build facilities on the 1,400-acre Severstal Columbus site. At least one of the companies – referred to in an official statement on the groundbreaking as “downstream campus partners” – will use steel manufactured by Severstal Columbus.
Severstal is “ the most efficient, productive steel mill in the United States already. This is going to help take that productivity and that excellence downstream ... for more products, which means more sales, more jobs, more investment; good for the Golden Triangle, for Lowndes County, good for Mississippi,” Gov. Haley Barbour told the audience gathered in a tent on the grounds of Severstal.
“The No. 1 attraction is our workforce, a workforce that’s as good as anywhere,” Barbour said.
James Hrusovsky, the CEO of Severstal Columbus, read a letter from U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
“The unique products that you plan to make from this facility will strengthen Mississippi’s manufacturing industrial base, which is the essence of our nation’s economic engine,” Wicker said in the letter.
MSP – which incorporated last year – will provide services to customers such as slitting, cutting to length, logistics and fabrication, according to promotional material from the company.
The statement says the company will work with light flat rolled steel products, including heavier-gauge items.
Texas-based NPS will work with lighter ranges of carbon and coated flat-rolled steel products, as well as galvanized, Galvalume, aluminized and pre-painted items.
The companies are expected to begin operation at their new facilities late first quarter of next year, and as expansion of the two businesses takes place over the next few years, the companies will possess the potential to hire 120 workers, the statement said.
Barbour said the average pay will be $50,000.
Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant said: “This is sends an international message. ... being an international player in the steel manufacturing market is huge for the state of Mississippi and this is only the beginning. ... The more processing we can do, the more people we can hire.”
Hrusovsky also said, “ ... Mississippi’s moving ahead and when we come out the other side of this recession, we’re going to be at a trot and not a crawl and that’s what we’re trying to do,” position the state “to be standing up and ready to move when the economy comes back.”
Hrusovsky saidm “Despite the economic turmoil of the past two years, businesses can be created, they can be expanded and they can thrive if we have the right dynamics.”
Hrusovsky announced that Severstal is working on its $550 million, Phase II expansion, estimated to double the footprint and capacity of the steel mill, and add 100 jobs on top of the existing 550 employees at Severstal and the two other companies’ possible 120 jobs.
Gray Swoope, the executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, said construction jobs will have an immediate impact on the economy, and “as the facilities are finished, there are jobs that will be added. ... Those are all positive factors of recovery, hopefully, in being able to start some job growth back.”
When asked about how MDA officials are trying to reposition Mississippi for existing business growth as well as drawing companies to the state, Swoope said: “We have reacted to the market.”
Though the agency has a budget which is 30 percent smaller than in 2002 and 17 percent less in staffing, “... This is a good thing, it makes us ... look at ‘What is the market telling us?,’ and ‘How do we allocate resources?’ So, from within, we have downsized in areas that we’ve probably should be downsizing in,” Swoope said.
“...Where we’ve increased staff and resources are in business recruitment and in existing industry support, we’ve added people there; not net new positions, but allocated new people for those jobs,” he said.
“And with that we continue to be relentless in business development, whether it’s a new company trying to come to our state or an existing company trying to retain jobs. So we’ve been able to manage by just focusing on our customers” and what the market is saying, Swoope said.
“...We’re good stewards of taxpayer money. I think we have a fiduciary responsibility to ... cut back just as everybody is doing at home and you have make decisions on where your resources should be going.”