It looks like the Port of Brownsville may get that steel mill it’s been wanting.
David Stickler, CEO of Arkansas-based Big River Steel, was quoted in a June 5 article in metals trade publication Fastmarkets AMM saying that the company is spending time, money and effort toward construction of a mill in the southern United States, “with the most focus currently on the Port of Brownsville.”
BRS is in the process of doubling the capacity of its existing steel mill, in Osceola, Ark., and is evaluating sites for a second mill in order to grow its business serving Mexico’s vehicle manufacturing sector. In a Nov. 7, 2018, AMM article, Stickler confirmed that Brownsville was a contender but said BRS was also considering other Gulf coast sites for a high-tech, $1.6 billion mill.
In April 2018, the Brownsville Navigation District Commission approved a lease option agreement with BRS on up to 800 acres of port land, and the company signed an extension on that option agreement this April.
Stickler said in the most recent AMM article that the company had secured contracts with three major automakers — he didn’t say which ones — and is planning to add a fourth in the near future.
BMW opened a new plant in Mexico this month. Audi, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen also have plants there, as do General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, which have been building cars in Mexico since the 1930s. Manufacturer demand for flat-rolled steel continues to grow in Mexico.
Meanwhile, BRS is forging ahead with a second mill against a backdrop of dramatically fluctuating steel prices since its Osceola operations began in 2017, and despite whatever the Trump administration does related to tariffs. The new plant would support about 500 full-time jobs with an average annual salary of $75,000.
Steve Tyndal, Port of Brownsville senior director of marketing and business development, said Stickler took part in the port’s May 23 Workforce Summit, attended by roughly 60 stakeholders, including representatives from the three proposed liquefied natural gas projects at the port.
“This is another reassuring example of Big River Steel’s continuing interest in the Port of Brownsville,” Tyndal said.
Port officials are in regular communication with BRS about the project, which would provide “significant economic and job opportunities across the Rio Grande Valley, as well as further diversifying the port’s commercial foundation,” he said.
BND Chairman John Reed said Stickler was “very involved” in the summit, which also drew state officials with the Texas Workforce Commission.
“I will say that we are continually visiting with and speaking to Mr. Stickler and working very hard towards having Big River Steel open in Brownsville,” he said.
Kevin Shuba, CEO of OmniTRAX, which is in charge of marketing and developing the port’s industrial park and operating the Brownsville & Rio Grande International Railroad, said the potential economic impact of a BRS steel mill in Brownsville was obvious from the first conversation with the Arkansas-based company.
“Together with our local and state partners, we are collaboratively working to put the final pieces in place that hopefully enables a favorable decision by Big River Steel to bring a new, high technology steel mill to Brownsville, Texas,” he said.
BY STEVE CLARK STAFF WRITER