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(UPDATED — BREAKING NEWS) American Specialty Alloys won’t locate $1.2B mill in Mississippi

ASA alloysBy JACK WEATHERLY

American Specialty Alloys, a startup aluminum manufacturer that had been in negotiations with the Mississippi Development Authority and the Golden Triangle development agency since last spring, announced late Friday it has signed a deal with the state of Louisiana to build a $1.2 billion mill in Pineville, which is adjacent to Alexandria on the Red River.

Rumors had proliferated that the manufacturer would not locate at Columbus, despite the fact that it opened an office there last year and maintained it until the past few days.

Asked on Tuesday if the company was heading to Alexandria, chief marketing officer George Riel told the Mississippi Business Journal, “Not today.”

It was in fact a few days later when the company issued a news release to the Associated Press.

Joe Max Higgins, executive director of Golden Triangle Development LINK, has been publicly critical of the American Specialty Alloys Chief Executive Roger Boggs.

The Columbus-based development agency held an 826-acre site for nearly a year until, after numerous attempts to get the company to present a plan showing where its investment money was coming from, it put the acreage back on the market in January.

Boggs told the Journal that he had told the LINK he would not disclose its finances until it had chosen a site.

Higgins said recently that he had tried numerous times but had been unable to communicate with Boggs since mid-November.

Higgins has said that the LINK has landed industries valued $5 billion in its 12 years of existence.

Efforts to contact the LINK and the MDA on Saturday were unsuccessful.

At stake were between 450 and 650 jobs paying an average of $85,000 a year to turn out aluminum alloy for automobile bodies. There were to be 2,000 hired to build the 1.4-million-square-foot mill.

American Specialty’s release stated that the site is a 1,200-acre mill complex formerly operated by International Paper in Rapides Parish near Pineville, according to the Associated Press.

» RELATED — Aluminum maker, recruiter still at impasse on $1.2 billion project

ASA officials say several states were considered for the plant, including Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a prepared statement: “When the IP mill closed several years ago, we pledged that we would work on securing a project that would bring good jobs back to that location.”

The Louisiana Department of Economic Development offered ASA a performance-based grant of $34 million to offset site-related infrastructure costs, payable in installments upon the company meeting capital investment and payroll targets, according to the AP. State officials also approved tax exemptions and rebates and job training.  Industrial Tax Exemption offers abatement of local property taxes for a decade on its new facilities.

In addition, the Red River Waterway Commission authorized creation of a new port to serve the mill, the AP said.

Boggs said in a prepared statement: “We spent considerable time and resources looking at potential candidates across the Southern states, a strategic area for our operations, suppliers and customers.

“Our needs were specific, based on our project budget, requirements and constraints. We studied many factors essential to the project success, including property characteristics, community engagement, workforce readiness and the quality and support of local service providers. In Louisiana, we found a high level of coordination and cooperation among state agencies and with local site-service providers.”

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About Jack Weatherly