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New Madrid: Old Noranda facility reopening?

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – After months of waiting, Missouri’s bootheel may finally see the jobs promised as part of the first special legislative session in the summer of 2017.

On Friday, March 9, Governor Eric Greitens, U.S. Congressman Jason Smith, and Rep. Don Rone will all head to St. Jude Industrial Park in New Madrid for the “announcement of a job creation project.”

That job creation announcement is expected to be the reopening of the old Noranda facility.

Magnitude 7 is expected to relaunch the old Noranda aluminum smelter, providing roughly 300 jobs.

A Swiss company, Magnitude 7, purchased the smelter in bankruptcy after Noranda closed in 2016, with about 900 people losing their jobs. The loss of the smelter had a devastating effect on the area’s economy, with the average household income dropping by about $6,000 in New Madrid County.

But to get the smelter reopened, and to lure in another steel mill, Missourians were told that a measure would need to be enacted by the legislature, allowing for large power users to negotiate lower electric rates. Ameren, the electricity provider of southeast Missouri, was one of the first to come to the table to again negotiate utility offerings for what could, and now – would, become one of the company’s largest customers.

The need for such legislation was apparently so dire that Gov. Eric Greitens called the Missouri General Assembly back in for a special session just one week after the end of the regular legislative session.

The Governor made headlines when he led a parade of people through the Capitol in support of the steel mill bill, plastering the doors of legislators with notes.

Much work had to be done to find language that could meet the needs of the companies and not stretch too far. One of the most significant points of the process came with an amendment from Rep. Jay Barnes, who figuratively cut the bill in half, eliminating the language in an attempt to guarantee its passage through the Senate.

And on May 26, 2017, both chambers had signed off on the bill. But, it wasn’t until June 15, 2017, that the Governor signed off on the bill. Since then, the people in the bootheel have been waiting for news of the reopening of the smelter, as well as word on whether the company seeking to build a steel mill would commit to the area.

But now, about nine months later, it seems they will be getting at least one answer, in the form of an announcement scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. in St. Jude Industrial Park.

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