(Missourinet news director Brian Hauswirth traveled to New Madrid on Monday to follow-up on this summer’s Missouri legislative special session. Brian will be updating listeners on-air and online this week, and also plans a more in-depth series for later)

NEW MADRID, Mo.- A leader in southeast Missouri says his town is still in the running for a steel mill, and is also hopeful that the former Noranda smelter here will be reopened.

State Rep. Don Rone speaks on the Missouri House floor on May 24, 2017 (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at Missouri House Communications}

Governor Eric Greitens (R) called Missouri lawmakers back to Jefferson City in May for a special session aimed at creating hundreds of new jobs in the impoverished New Madrid area.

City Administrator Richard McGill says he’s hopeful of landing the steel mill, which he says would create 170 immediate jobs.

“We’re still in the running and we’re very optimistic that we’ve put together a package that will attract the steel mill,” McGill says.

McGill says the steel mill could have a second phase, with another 170 jobs.

He says the steel mill owner, who’s an international investor, has visited New Madrid three times, and has gotten to know the community.

More than 23 percent of New Madrid County residents are living in poverty.

Missouri lawmakers overwhelmingly approved legislation in May aimed at creating the new jobs.

The Missouri House vote was 120-17, and the Senate approved it 24-5. The bill enjoyed bipartisan support in both chambers, and had critics in both parties.

Of the 17 “no” votes on the House bill, nine came from Republicans including State Reps. Paul Curtman, R-Union, and Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon. The other eight “no” votes came from Democrats, including State Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette, and House Assistant Minority Floor Leader Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis.

During an interview outside the former Noranda smelter on Monday, McGill told Missourinet he’s also hopeful the former smelter can reopen.

“These people want to work,” says McGill. “They don’t want to continue to live in poverty. And as one of the poorest counties in the state, we need jobs.”

About 900 people lost their jobs here when the Noranda smelter closed in 2016.

State Rep. Don Rone, R-Portageville, who sponsored the steel mill/smelter bill that Greitens signed this summer, says the average household income in New Madrid County has dropped $6,000, since then.