Hundreds of people are expected to gather in an economically hard-hit area of the Bootheel Friday afternoon, for the formal announcement of the opening of a new aluminum smelter in New Madrid.
State Rep. Don Rone, R-Portageville, tells Missourinet that Magnitude 7 Metals is hiring about 400 workers for the new smelter, which is located at the former Noranda facility.
900 people lost their jobs when Noranda closed in 2016. One of them was New Madrid resident Buddy Mowery, who traveled to the Missouri Capitol in May to urge lawmakers to approve the Noranda/steel mill legislation.
Mowery spoke that day to reporters, after a rally outside the Statehouse.
“I worked at Noranda for 14 years and lost my job,” Mowery said in May. “I’ve got my kids here (at the Capitol) with me. I’ve actually had to find work in Kentucky at another smelter. Paying two mortgages, you know I’m ready to come back home where my kids are.”
The bipartisan legislation demanded by Governor Eric Greitens (R) during the May special session was approved by the Missouri Senate 24-5 and the House in a 120-17 vote.
Rone carried the bill in the House, and State Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, was a Senate sponsor.
Greitens, U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, Rone and other state and local officials will attend Friday’s 2:00 p.m. announcement in New Madrid’s St. Jude Industrial Park. That’s just east of Interstate 55.
Rone says the public is welcome to attend Friday’s announcement.
Rone tells Missourinet Switzerland-based Magnitude 7 Metals has already hired more than 100 people to clean up the Noranda site.
“They’re going to open up pot line two and next thing on the line will be the rod and wire mill,” says Rone. “Hopefully at the end of this session we’ll see over 400 jobs at that one location.”
Rone says the beginning salary for the new employees at Magnitude 7 Metals will be $20 an hour.
Rone says those 900 workers have been contacted.
“We Bootheelers are a little different breed. We don’t operate in the hills well. We operate on flat land. And you want to come home, it’s there for you now,” Rone says.
Missourinet spent three days in southeast Missouri in November, visiting towns like New Madrid, Kennett and Poplar Bluff to speak to officials, business owners, residents and our radio affiliates about the region’s high poverty and its hopes for new industry.
One of the businessmen we spoke to was Martindale Chevrolet Incorporated general manager Mark Kolwyck.
Martindale Chevrolet is the only franchise car dealership in New Madrid.
Kolwyck told Missourinet in November that his new car sales were down by 50 percent, since Noranda’s closing. He also noted that some residents had lost their houses and their cars.
Veteran news director Charles Isbell at Missourinet Kennett affiliate KBOA Radio (AM 1540) told us in November that many southeast Missourians had to move to Tennessee to find work, after Noranda.
Governor Greitens notes nine of the state’s ten poorest counties are in southeast Missouri. Four of the state’s highest counties with free and reduced school lunch participation rates are located in the Bootheel.
Meantime, Rone is praising President Donald Trump’s decision to sign proclamations to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
“I cannot say enough about what President Trump’s done. With the tariff that he has put on aluminum, that might add another pot line to our deal down there,” says Rone.
The “Washington Post” reports President Trump announced Thursday that the United States will soon charge a 25 percent penalty on most imported steel and a ten percent penalty on most imported aluminum.
New Madrid city administrator Richard McGill will also be at Friday’s announcement.
McGill has been working since 2016 to try to find a company to take over the former Noranda facility. He’s also been working to land a separate steel mill, which he says would create about 170 immediate jobs in New Madrid.
McGill is thrilled about Friday’s announcement.
“For the last two years, after the closing of Noranda, we’ve had jobs as our top priority. This news is certainly worth celebrating for not only the city of New Madrid but for southeast Missouri and the entire state. I’m so thankful to have someone like Representative Rone fighting for us in Jefferson City. His passion and determination to help our area is unmatched, and we are seeing the fruits of his leadership.”
Listen to House Speaker Todd Richardson and State Rep. Don Rone brief the Capitol Press Corps, including Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth, on March 8, 2018 at the Statehouse in Jefferson City: