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Atlas Tube Announces Second Steel Mill in Blytheville; Mississippi County Prepares for More Projects

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Another steel mill held a grand opening in Mississippi County Wednesday. KASU’s Johnathan Reaves was in Blytheville for the announcement, and tells how the county works to provide what is needed for current and future projects.

It is a good problem to have…of course that is what I hear over and over again as local and county officials gathered to celebrate the opening of Atlas Tube’s second location in Blytheville. Another steel mill opens, and there is talk about more projects coming in the future. The numerous steel mills in Blytheville and Big River Steel in Osceola all make different types of steel. Atlas Tube’s Jumbo mill will make hollow structural sections of steel that would be used in building bridges, warehouses, highway signs, and stadiums. It is a 150-million-dollar project with 75 new jobs. Executive Chairman and C-E-O of Zekelman Industries Barry Zekelman tells about what this mill makes.

“It’s a stronger kind of product that actually uses less steel and can handle bigger loads,” says Zekelman. “You can go taller, higher, and wider and still maintain aesthetically pleasing products. We can carry much heavier loads on the columns in a more efficient manner.”

For the past 25 years, the steel industry has exploded in Mississippi County…making the county the leader in the nation for the amount of steel that is produced annually. Executive Vice President and C-O-O of Zekelman Industries Tom Muth tells why Atlas Tube has a second plant in Blytheville.

“We located here back in 2005 based on the steel supply that was here; that has done nothing but grow. If you look at the investment over the past 30 years, there is well over $10 billion in this region in steel manufacturing. What we are producing here is making the most efficient and cleanest steel production in the world and we are proud to be part of that here.”

One of the reasons why steel mills are picking the region is because of the partnerships that are provided. The State of Arkansas works with steel mills to bring them to Arkansas, the Mississippi County Economic Development Commission provides the infrastructure and incentives for the mills, and Arkansas Northeastern College has the Arkansas Steel Academy to train workers for job placement in the mills. Director for Industrial Training at the college is Shelley Walker tells how the college develops the curriculum for each individual steel mill.

“Our curriculum came from engineers and design professionals that partner with us. We have done customized training for the past 25 years and we are very established in the community. We rely on their input to provide the curriculum. We have hired engineers from industry to teach our students so they have real world experience when they apply for a job.”

Mississippi County Judge John Nelson tells what is means to have the different mills in the county.

“Twenty years ago people were leaving the county and we lost that tax base. With the steel industry here now, the tax base now has massive growth and that is a benefit for the county government and it allows us to better serve our citizens. As soon as one project is announced, it seems the next one is right behind it.”

And the next project may not be the far in the distant future as officials hinted to KASU news that another announcement may be coming soon. In Jonesboro, I’m Johnathan Reaves.