From Mississippi Development Guide 2023

How Columbus Landed a Generational Deal

Steel Dynamics is investing $2.5 billion to build an aluminum plant in Lowndes County.

Cover Story
Steel Dynamics groundbreaking ceremony in Columbus, Mississippi.
Photo courtesy of Mississippi Development Authority

by Ron Starner

o say that the largest capital investment project in Mississippi went off with a bang earlier this year would be an understatement. Gov. Tate Reeves made sure of that.

At the groundbreaking ceremony of Steel Dynamics Incorporated’s new $2.5-billion aluminum flat-rolled mill in Columbus on March 7, Reeves joined SDI CEO Mark Millett in detonating a charge that sent dirt and a kaleidoscope of colors flying at the 2,100-acre site just off Charleigh D. Ford Jr. Drive.

About 400 people witnessed the dramatic beginning to a process that will eventually result in the creation of 850 new jobs that pay an average annual wage of $93,000 when the low-carbon, recycled aluminum factory near the Golden Triangle Regional Airport comes online in 2025. The factory will have the capacity to produce 650,000 tons of finished products annually.

The record-setting investment was first unveiled last Nov. 2 when SDI also announced the location of its planned biocarbon production operations at the same complex in Columbus. This initial SDI Biocarbon Solutions plant is a joint venture of SDI and Aymium. The Columbus site was chosen for strategic reasons, including its proximity to one of SDI’s largest electric-arc-furnace steel mills, which will use a significant amount of the biocarbon as a replacement for anthracite. The site is also close to abundant fiber raw material resources in the region.

Other pivotal location factors included “excellent logistics provided by on-site access to a Class I railroad, proximity to the major U.S. highway systems, and access to the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway,” according to a statement by the company. The firm added that plentiful supplies of natural gas, renewable power and water resources were critical to sealing the deal.

“More and more people are wanting to do business here, and more and more people are wanting to invest their capital here and hire Mississippians.”

— Gov. Tate Reeves

“We are eager to move this significant investment forward,” said Millett. “We have intentionally grown with our customers’ needs, providing efficient, sustainable, supply-chain solutions for the highest quality products. Thus far, this has primarily been achieved within the carbon steel industry. However, a significant number of our flat-rolled carbon steel customers are also consumers and processors of aluminum flat-rolled products. This investment broadens our ability to serve our existing and new customers by adding high-quality, low-carbon-footprint, flat-rolled aluminum to our product portfolio. We believe our unique, performance-based operating culture, coupled with our considerable experience in successfully constructing and operating cost-effective, highly profitable, flat-rolled steel mills, positions us exceptionally well to execute this strategic opportunity in an adjacent metal space, and to deliver strong long-term value creation.”


SDI is giving its workers a $5,000-per-child scholarship to attend college, per year for up to four years. Courtesy of SDI

Photo courtesy of Mississippi Development Authority

Incentives Package Proves Critical

SDI is one of the largest steel producers and metal recyclers in the U.S., and this historic deal was years in the making. The seeds were sown in early 2022 when the Fort Wayne, Indiana-based SDI began having talks with the Golden Triangle Development LINK. The project announcement came last November when the Mississippi State Legislature passed a $246 million incentives package to aid in building the new plant. The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors chipped in with an additional $18 million loan from the state to help with land acquisition, road improvements and other infrastructure costs. 

The plant is being built near an International Paper facility and will engage about 2,000 contractors and more than 30,000 construction workers during the multi-year process. Millett said the company plans to hire construction labor mostly from the surrounding region.

In another boost to the regional economy, SDI announced it will provide additional financial incentives to all employees. These will include a $5,000 scholarship to any child of plant workers and a company-wide 8% pre-tax revenue fund given to workers at the end of every fiscal year as a bonus.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Millett noted that the bonus payments “are not a gift. We are not giving it away. Each and every employee earns it. They can have nice houses. They can retire earlier and enjoy life. That is what is important to us. We are also going to give that $5,000 scholarship for four years, so that their kids can go to college and lessen the burden of that expense. That is who we are as a company.”

Groundwork for Customers Too

Gov. Reeves called the project transformational for Mississippi. “More and more people are wanting to do business here, and more and more people are wanting to invest their capital here and hire Mississippians,” he said at the groundbreaking. “And because of that, every day we are delivering more and more economic opportunity for our people. Opportunity that will help lead to more meaningful careers and create more generational wealth.”

“We are eager to move this significant investment forward. We have intentionally grown with our customers’ needs, providing efficient, sustainable, supply-chain solutions for the highest quality products.”

— Mark Millett, CEO of Steel Dynamics Inc.

LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins noted that three additional prospects attended the groundbreaking on March 7: Ball Corp., BMW and Coca-Cola. With an industrial site large enough to accommodate up to 12 customers, some or all these prospects may end up building on site to be next to the new plant, Higgins said.

Founded in 1993, SDI produces about 13 million tons of steel per year, making it the third largest manufacturer of carbon steel products in the country. The firm employs 10,000 people and has a market cap of about $15.84 billion. SDI had total revenues last year of $22.26 billion, which was up from its 2021 revenues of $18.41 billion. In 2020, the peak year of COVID-19, the company had revenues of $9.6 billion. SDI’s gross profits increased from $1.4 billion in 2020 to $6.1 billion in 2022. The firm currently ranks No. 196 on the Fortune 500 list.



Steel Dynamics is the third-largest manufacturer of steel in the U.S. and ranks 196 on the Fortune 500 list. Courtesy of SDI 

Photos courtesy of Mississippi Development Authority

Ron Starner
Executive Vice President of Conway, Inc.

Ron Starner

Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.


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