Mississippi appears to be the favored location for a proposed $1.2 billion aluminum mill that would hire 650 or more workers to supply aluminum for auto bodies.
American Specialty Alloys announced plans to build the plant Monday. The company won't say what locations it's considering, but has filed for environmental permits at a site near Golden Triangle Regional Airport, just west of Columbus in Lowndes County. The company incorporated in Mississippi in March and has listed a Columbus address.
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The company received a construction permit from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality in October and is seeking further permits, including one that would allow it emit air pollution.
CEO Roger Boggs said other states might be in the running, including Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Alabama. He said the company has permits "in process" in other states as part of its effort to select sites.
American Specialty describes itself as American-owned. Boggs declined to elaborate on shareholders or how the mill would be financed.
"We are going to make an announcement of the site and the financing by the end of the year," he said. The company has a countdown clock on its website pointing toward Dec. 19.
American Specialty said it plans a 1.4 million square-foot plant that would make more than 600,000 tons of aluminum sheet and plate each year, with operations planned to start in late 2016.
Jeff Rent, a spokesman for the Mississippi Development Authority, declined to confirm or deny that the state is courting American Specialty Alloys. Such a large investment would be eligible for a number of state and local tax breaks and incentives. The state offered Japanese tire maker Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd more than $330 million in cash and tax breaks if it builds all the phases of a $1.2 billion tire plant in West Point.
Boggs said the mill is designed to melt scrap into new aluminum, produce it more cheaply and deliver it more quickly than existing mills. Boggs said the company would use equipment and know-how supplied by Italian machinery maker Danieli SpA and its British subsidiary Innoval Technology. In Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality documents, the application is called Project Innoval.
Boggs, who has a long history in the steel business, said he wants to model the company on American steelmaker Nucor Corp., which became the largest American steelmaker by building small, efficient mills.
The company aims to supply automakers switching from steel to aluminum in an effort to cut down vehicle weight and increase fuel efficiency. One recent example of that shift is the Ford F-150 pickup.
"I think the demand is going to be higher than supply," Boggs said.
Other major aluminum suppliers include Atlanta-based Novelis, New York-based Alcoa, Cleveland-based Aleris International and Dutch-based Constellium NV. Constellium recently announced it would buy Alabama-based Wise Metals for $1.4 billion.
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