SeverCorr no longer member of Columbus economic development group

Published 7:09 pm Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Officials with the SeverCorr steel mill have ended their membership in the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link, partially because of the way the Link has handled proposed funding for additional development next to the new $880 million mill.

Link officials say, however, that even though SeverCorr is no longer a member, it will continue to work with the startup steel company in much the same partnership.

“We will, and are still working with SeverCorr,” Link CEO Joe Max Higgins said this past week. “Just because they are not a Link member does not mean we won’t work for them and with them.

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“It is unusual, however, for large high profile companies not to belong to the local chamber,” Higgins said. “Their dues were between $500 and $600.”

SeverCorr already has started one process — the chemical cleansing of hot roll steel before processing — at its 1.2-million-square-foot minimill being completed in Lowndes County.

Officials said earlier that production of cold-rolled steel could begin as early as next spring, with hot-rolled steel being made by next summer.

SeverCorr recently sent the Link a letter announcing the company’s desire to cancel its membership.

“What we all need to keep in mind is that SeverCorr came to this county to make a successful steel company, and by doing that, to brings jobs and businesses to this area,” said Mark Bula, a spokesman for Marketing Minds, a public relations firm representing SeverCorr.

“And I think the most important thing we can say is that anything that’s going to detract us from doing that is something we want to avoid,” he said.

Bula declined comment on the contents of a letter SeverCorr sent to Link officials.

The disagreement between Link and SeverCorr is believed to be more connected with Global Principal Partners, an investment management firm orchestrating the financing for SeverCorr and other projects, including the Mississippi Industrial Steel Technology Center.

“GPP is actually more of a problem as they are the group that has actually started much of the recent controversy,” said Higgins.

GPP earlier said the Link, which makes recommendations to the Lowndes County supervisors, promised $3.25 million in addition to a $2 million Community Development Block Grant from the state to help fund the MISTC.

MISTC is the name given to an industrial park SeverCorr set aside on its property as a place to house its customers, suppliers and service companies.

Supervisors, concerned about unanswered questions over the ownership of MISTC and adamant about not putting up money for companies the county already has helped by funding SeverCorr, only agreed to the $2 million grant. The county did not act on the Link’s recommendation for an additional $3.25 million.

“There are the industries, the communities and sometimes companies like GPP, who tend to try to push the envelope just a little too much,” said Higgins.