By JACK WEATHERLY
John Correnti, a pioneer in steel making who left a significant mark on Mississippi, has died at 68, according to published reports.
Correnti, who was in Chicago for a meeting of the board for Navistar International Corp., was found dead in his hotel room Tuesday apparently from natural causes, the reports say.
He was lead investor and mastermind of the $1.3 billion Big River Steel under construction at Osceola, Ark. He was head of a minority investor of Mississippi Silicon, a $200 million plant being built at Burnsville.
He headed up a minority investment group in the creation of SeverCorr Steel at Columbus, which was later bought out by partner Severstal, a Russian company that last year sold the plant to Steel Dynamics.
Glenn McCullough, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, said in an email: “John Correnti lived life to the fullest, always played full speed, and was a gifted global leader who was a builder of Mississippi’s economy. He will be missed. His wife, Dawn, and his family are in my prayers.”
Correnti started his career with U.S. Steel, where, he said, he “learned how not to make steel.” He joined Nucor Corp., and rose to the top as chief executive as the company perfected what are known as “mini-mills” plants rather than the integrated behemoths that had dominated the industry since its beginning and were fighting a losing battle with international competitors.
He oversaw the creation of two mills in Mississippi County, Ark., for Nucor. He left that company in 1999 over a disagreement with its direction.
When he and his partners sought to build a third in the county, Nucor opposed it.
The Charlotte, N.C.-based corporation at first said the area could not support a third steel plant because it could not provide the number of workers needed and threatened that it might have to lay off workers.
But the Arkansas Legislature in 2013 saw fit to provide funding for $125 million in general obligation bonds for the plant. Then Nucor filed suit to block the air permit for the plant on the ground that it would raise airborne pollutants to an unacceptable level. The suit was dismissed in February of this year.
Steel Dynamics in Columbus now employs about 650, with contractors providing more than twice that number of jobs, said Joe Max Higgins, chief executive of Golden Triangle Development LINK.
The Steel Dynamics plant, valued at $1.96 billion, “even with a tax break . . . is absolutely the largest taxpayer in Lowndes County,” Higgins said Wednesday.
Correnti and Higgins clashed over another project in Columbus, Silicor Materials.
Higgins and Correnti parted ways in 2012 after Correnti did not make deadlines and extensions of them for payment of $150,000 to be held in escrow.
“I didn’t like the way John did some things, and we didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but . . . this community owes him an irrepayble debt,” Higgins said.
Correnti said he would build the plant in Mississippi, just not Lowndes County.
The $200 million silicon plant now under construction at Burnsville is expected to employ 200.
A suit filed by a competitor, and joined by Nucor, challenged the validity of the air permit for the plant but was dismissed in federal court last month.
BEFORE YOU GO…
… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.
If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.Click for more info