Tons of molten metal poured from the ladles inside the Severstal Columbus steel plant on Monday. The liquid that was seen pouring from the giant containers would just two hours later become about eight rolls of metal sheets that will be shipped to firms all around the country.
County and city leaders were treated to seeing the day-to-day process of making steel, but more importantly, they were treated to seeing what a large and operational industrial site looks like.
Supervisors Floyd McKee, R.B. Davis, Lynn Horton and Shelton Deanes, along with City Selectman Homer Cannon and Circuit Clerk Amy Berry took the Severstal tour, arranged by Clay County Economic Developer Ron Maloney.
“It was very enlightening,” said Davis after the tour. “It gave us some insight on what big industry has to offer. We’re looking forward to bringing something of this magnitude to Clay County.”
That is certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
On Tuesday, the public will be invited to the unveiling ceremony of the Prairie Belt Powersite, which has been called the “super site” and the “megasite” over the last few months.
Located in Clay County’s District One (Lynn Horton’s district), the Prairie Belt Powersite is about 1,100 acres. To give an idea of how big of a project Clay County could land, plant managers at Severstal said that its site only had 53 acres “under roof.”
“This is an idea of what we mean when we say we want to land the big project,” Maloney said.
The electricity already available to the Clay County site, along with water and sewage being easily available make the PBP attractive to industries looking to build.
Maloney will debut on Tuesday a promotional movie that will be available to site selectors online. This way industries will have a good idea of what the site is about before they even hit the ground in Clay County.
Severstal’s plant had many tiers to its operation.
In one area the board operators watch the temperatures and gauges on the computer screens beside the foundries. Plant managers say that a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent is required for that kind of job. Potential employees are also tested at East Mississippi Community College prior to hiring.
Computer skill are essential to people looking to enter the labor force in the 21st Century. Maloney said he counted right under 11 robots during the tour of the plant on Monday.
Clay County has been looking to add jobs since Bryan Foods shut down seven years ago.
An industrial project of this size would have an immediate economic effect on Clay County and West Point.
Davis says that in the meantime, economic development is not just about luring new projects to the area.
“There’s more to it than that,” Davis said. “Economic development is also about taking care of the industries that you already have. We need to make sure that the industries we do have stay here.”
The “Powersite” will be revealed on Tuesday, October 30 at the Civic at 5:30 p.m. All are encouraged to attend.