Thursday, January 30, 2014

Osceola Mayor Talks New Industry, Jobs at Chamber Luncheon

The Osceola/South Mississippi County Chamber of Commerce held its first Member Lunch on Wednesday, January 29, 2014, in the Harold Ohlendorf Civic Center.  Over 70 business, industry, and community leaders came out to enjoy a delicious lunch catered by member Riverlawn Country Club and to hear Mayor Dickie Kennemore give the State of the City Address.

He began his program with general updates about the City of Osceola budget.  He showed the group that in comparison to 2013's budget, the city should recognize a $1,776,534 net increase in profits this year through both increases and revenue and reduction of expenses.  He noted that this was due to various department heads operating more efficiently and reduction of wages through attrition.  

The presentation then moved to many updates regarding industrial developments.
Map showing boundaries for existing and future industrial developments. Clockwise from bottom left: Evonik Cyro (existing, purple) American Greetings (existing, light blue), Indigo Resources LTD (future, dark blue), Plum Point Energy Station (existing, red), Bunge Corporation (existing, gold), Viskase Corporation (existing, pink), Big River Steel (future, yellow). Photo from the Mayor's presentation.

Blue Oak, a high tech recycling facility, was the first to be discussed.  The company will work to reclaim five precious metals found in circuit boards from a variety of electronics.  There are only six facilities such as this in the world, none of which are in the United States.  Kennemore also noted that those that do exist are repurposed recycling facilities, often having outdated technology and thus not recognizing maximum efficiency.  Blue Oak will be state of the art, bringing approximately 75 high paying technical jobs.  The project is anticipated to begin preliminary organization in the next 60-90 days.

Next, Kennemore gave information on Indigo Resources, the rail-to-barge oil terminal to be situated just north of Plum Point Energy Station.  Oil will be imported from Canada and North Dakota on rail cars, transferred to barge at the Osceola terminal, and transported to refineries in Memphis, Vicksburg, New Orleans, and Houston.  Indigo is expected to fill 225 jobs, and will break ground on April 1, 2014.

Kennemore then explained that with this kind of industry, there is some risk due to needed maintenance or inspection of rail cars.  When you consider the large amount of rail cars used by PPES and to be used by Indigo and Big River Steel, there will be quite the demand for a facility that can help in this respect.  The group was surprised when he announced that they are working to bring a tank car inspection and repair business to the former Fruit of the Loom site, and the 70,000 tank cars in need of inspection and repair will create 300 to 400 jobs, many in welding.  Scrap cars will be delivered to Big River Steel.

The presentation then shifted to an update on Big River Steel.  He gave a report on the recent meeting last Friday with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, in which the agency lifted the construction stay on the project.  Though the air permit hearing still has to take place, he explained that this is a major and positive step forward by allowing BRS to begin preliminary site work.  The air permit appeal hearing is tentatively set for February 18, with a final decision to be made on or before March 31, 2014.  The plant is to bring approximately 525 jobs.

He also shared data about the steel industry and an article in Fortune magazine with Charles Koch of Koch Industries.  In it, Koch discusses their reasons for investing in BRS, one being that it will be the only large-scale producer of electrical-grade steel in the United States, which will be used to make transformers, power lines, and other equipment used in specialty grids of tomorrow.
"The New Koch" by Christopher Leonard, Fortune Magazine, January 13, 2014.

With all of the new industrial developments happening in Osceola, Kennemore discussed plans for accommodating infrastructure improvements, including water, sewage, rail spurs, and more.

Kennemore closed his presentation with discussing his goal of securing a new electric provider contract.  The current contract with Constellation expires December 31, 2014, and the city is looking to negotiate a 20-year full requirements contract with a new company to have in place on January 1, 2015.  He explained that a $0.02 reduction would generate an additional $2.4million surplus for Osceola Municipal Light and Power.  With this additional profit, the City will explore options including but not limited to rate reduction, increased services, and a new recreation complex such as a water park.

The Chamber was very happy with both the turnout and the very informative presentation.  The organization looks to host the luncheon series on a quarterly basis.  For more details about the next luncheon, event, or general information about the Osceola/South Mississippi County Chamber of Commerce, contact Executive Director Ammi Tucker at or 870-563-2281.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Big River Steel gets OK to begin preliminary construction

Friday, January 24, 2014

Big River Steel is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) lifted the construction stay on Big River during a meeting in Little Rock early this morning (Friday).

Osceola Mayor Dickie Kennemore explained this does not mean the air permit has been approved, but it does mean John Correnti, CEO of Big River, can begin the preliminary construction phase such as soil tests etc.

"This is good news for the project," Kennemore said.

An administrative law judge has tentatively scheduled a Feb. 18 hearing on the appeal for the air permit.
Big River Steel, a $1.1 billion project, has promised to create at least 525 permanent jobs with an average wage of $75,000 in exchange for $125 million in state financing and other tax breaks. BRS will be built on the banks of the Mississippi River just south of Osceola.

Redistributed with permission from Sandra Brand. Original article link: