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Steel Dynamics to make $100M Mississippi expansion

May 21, 2015

Steel Dynamics Inc. will invest $100 million to add more steel-finishing capacity at its mill in Columbus, Mississippi.

The company, based in Fort Wayne, announced its plans Thursday, saying it would add 40 employees to the current 630.

Federal, state and local governments will give Steel Dynamics at least $12 million in incentives and property tax breaks. The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to cut property taxes for 10 years.

Higgins told The Commercial Dispatch newspaper that the new jobs will pay around $80,000 a year.

Steel Dynamics will add a line to make pre-painted steel and another to coat steel with zinc and aluminum. A coating that contains aluminum is more resistant to corrosion than the traditional galvanized coating, using only zinc. The Columbus mill already has two traditional galvanizing lines.

The company says that the mill's ability to make wide coils of steel, plus its southern location, drove the decision. The expansions are scheduled to open in early 2017.

"The Columbus investment will allow us to produce double-wide steel, and sell into the southeastern markets, including Mexico," Steel Dynamics CEO Mark Millett said in a written statement. "We plan to sell surface-critical, appliance-grade steel, as well as construction-related products, including those used in heating and air conditioning units, residential entry doors and lighting fixtures."

Steel Dynamics bought the Columbus mill from the Russian firm Severstal last year for $1.63 billion, saying it planned to try to sell steel in higher-profit markets. One way to do that is to further process steel after its made.

"When we originally landed this project, our internal goal was to add further value to 30 percent of production," Higgins said in a statement. "This expansion will enhance the opportunity to add value on site."

The mill, which melts scrap in an electric furnace to make new steel, has an annual capacity of 3.4 million tons.

The Mississippi Development Authority will provide $2.45 million for road and infrastructure needs, plus $100,000 for worker training. It will also loan $1 million to Lowndes County to help built a 2,000-foot rail spur.

The federal Appalachian Regional Commission will give $350,000 for other infrastructure needs. The Tennessee Valley Authority gave an undisclosed amount.

Because the deal is over $100 million, it's eligible under state law to have its property taxes reduced by two-thirds. Joe Max Higgins, CEO of Golden Triangle Development Link, said that the county will abate a projected $8 million in property taxes over 10 years. The county will pay the rail loan out of the $107,000 a year in taxes it will get. Higgins said the Lowndes County school district will get $234,000 a year under the abatement.

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