Benteler Steel/Tube is on track to stay with its intended production startup date of Aug. 1.
Keeping the construction pace on time and within its more than $1 billion budget is an accomplishment, while also being a testament to the Benteler team and suppliers, chief operating officer Tim Erway told members of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association ArkLaTex Chapter at a noon meeting Tuesday.
“These major mill projects can be difficult to keep on target,” Erway said, adding, “But we expect to start production later this year on schedule.”
So far, 250 employees are on the payroll with a ramp up of up to 550 planned over the next year and a half as production gets underway. A second phase of the project – to build a melt shop and continuous casting component - will add another 200 to 250 workers. No timeline was given for when that will kick off.
The jobs, he said, are “good paying that can provide for families.” A heavy emphasis is on hiring locally.
The 135-year-old family-owned, German company chose The Port of Caddo-Bossier as its first venture into the U.S. over 100 other locations scattered among 13 states. The port was a “major consideration,” with its infrastructure, rail, potential for barging and nearby highway systems.
But that wasn’t all. Benteler’s product – solid steel seamless tubes – are needed in the oil and gas country tubular goods market, Erway said. So whether it’s supplying tubes to major oil exploration facilities in Houston, the off-shore Gulf Coast market or the local and statewide shale oil and gas operations, positioning of the plant was strategic to fit the proximity to the customer base.
“The rising demand for energy was a driver for growth,” said Erway, a Michigan native who spent two years in Saudi Arabia overseeing construction of a competitive steel mill prior to his employment with Benteler in October.
Also a big plus is the trained workforce pool, he said. A “knowledge base” of ex-patriots and technicians from Germany will train the local workers, who then will stand on their own and become the foundation to train others in the steel industry.
“We are very happy we have done so,” Erway said of the company’s move to Caddo Parish. “And we’ve done great in finding great people. … We felt welcoming hands and welcoming arms when we got here. That support we really treasure and we look forward to returning it.”
Benteler’s vision here is long-term. “I think it’s our obligation to return something to the areas we are in.”
And as an example of how hands-on the Benteler family is with the tube mill, Erway pointed out the color scheme of buildings during his PowerPoint presentation. The colors, he said pointing to a building outlined in bright green, were personally selected by “Mrs. Benteler” to blend in with the local environment.