The Arkansas Legislature last week approved Gov. Mike Beebe’s request for $125 million of state general obligation bonds for a proposed $1.1 billion steel mill in northeast Arkansas.

Beebe is expected to sign the legislation this week.

Senate Bill 820 gives authority to issue the Amendment 82 bonds to Arkansas Economic Development Commission, which will enter into an agreement with Big River Steel LLC for the project. The bonds will be issued through Arkansas Development Finance Authority.

Voters approved Amendment 82 in 2004 and revised it in 2010. The provision caps state - issued GO bonds for large industrial project at 5% of state general fund revenues in the most recent fiscal year.

The $125 million of bond proceeds would fund a $50 million, five-year loan to the steelmaker, $50 million for site preparation, $20 million for subsurface pilings to stabilize the site along the Mississippi River, and $5 million of issuance costs.

Rep. Andy Mayberry, R-Hensley, said if lawmakers did not approve the bond bill, the steel mill would be built elsewhere. Jobs created directly and indirectly by the steel mill in Osceola will boost the economy across Arkansas, he said.

“Any super-project is just going to go to one part of the state,” Mayberry said. “However, it does not mean that it just benefits one part of the state.”

Big River Steel said the mill will provide 525 permanent jobs with an average compensation of $75,000 a year and up to 2,000 construction jobs.

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