LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The $1.1 billion Big River Steel mill that's planned for Osceola could be under construction later this year, but a number of things have to happen before dirt can be turned for the superproject.
The plant is awaiting rulings from two state regulators and it still must get signatures from financial backers and state officials before work can start. The Arkansas Public Service Commission is expected to rule by May 20 on a permit for two power lines that will go to the plant.
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is reviewing the company's application for an air quality permit.
Arkansas Economic Development Director Grant Tennille says there are no evident hitches and that he expects construction to go forward.
The plant is projected pay $75,000 annually to 550 employees.
Arkansas' chief economic development official expects construction on the proposed $1.1 billion Big River Steel plant near Osceola to begin by the fall — though a portion of its financing and final permissions from state regulators are still pending.
State legislators did their part this spring, approving a $125 million finance package that includes a $75 million grant. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is reviewing the plant's 770-page application for an air quality permit and the state Public Service Commission is expected to rule by May 20 on an application by Entergy Arkansas to build a pair of power lines to the plant.
"They (Big River Steel executives) still think that a third-quarter closing is within reach and they plan on breaking ground the same day they close," said Arkansas Economic Development Director Grant Tennille. "So we may begin to see construction probably ... in the September time frame. If things slip a little bit, it'll probably be closer to November."
The mill is to be built by SMS of Germany, and Tennille said some of the plant's financing is coming through Germany. Considering the custom common in Europe of taking the month of August as vacation, Tennille said a delay could stem from gathering international monetary guarantees.
But Tennille said there are no significant hitches in lining up financing for the plant.
"Everything looks good," he said.
Osceola Mayor Dickie Kennemore said he's generally pleased with the progress, if not the speed at which the project is coming together.
"From my perspective, it's going too slow. But I'm kind of impatient to get things started here," he said.