New steel firm coming to Lowndes

July 16, 2009

Neal Wagner -


The industrial giant neighborhood surrounding the Golden Triangle Regional Airport Wednesday received its second new tenant in less than a month, economic development officials announced during a Wednesday Lowndes County Board of Supervisors meeting. 


Mississippi Steel Processing, an upstart Lowndes County-based toll processing company, in September will begin construction of what is expected to be a 160,000-square-foot plant north of the Severstal steel mill in the Golden Triangle Industrial Park. 


The project will bring about a $15 million investment to the county, and will provide more than 50 jobs for area residents, according to company President and Principal Chip Gerber. 


"It will be about a 20-acre plot, and the facility will be 160,000 square feet once everything is completed," Gerber said. "There are about two phases of construction, and they could either be built separately or all together. But that''s how big it will be eventually." 


Once completed, the processing plant will purchase steel coils from Severstal before cutting the metal to meet customer specifications. Because the Mississippi Steel Processing plant will be constructed on the Severstal grounds, the processing company will be able to eliminate freight costs, Gerber said.  


The facility will be completed about six months after the projected Sept. 1 groundbreaking, according to Gerber. 


"This has been a long time coming. We are a brand new company, and this is our first processing facility," Gerber said, adding his business partner is Richard Merlo. "It began three years ago with Heidtman Steel, then it was Nova Steel and now I have another partner and decided to do this on my own." 


Although the plant will be completing the same type of steel processing as New Process Steel, which announced last month it also will be constructing a processing facility near Severstal, Mississippi Steel Processing will not directly compete with New Process, said Gerber. 


Though both processing companies will purchase steel from Severstal before cutting it to customer demands, each company will process different types of steel. 


"Between the two of us, we will cover every type of steel produced by Severstal," Gerber explained. "It''s also important to know that we are a toll processor. 


"What that means is that we will not sell steel like New Process," Gerber added, noting his company will process steel and store the product until needed by the customer. 


To aid the processing facility in constructing in Lowndes County, the Board of Supervisors Wednesday passed motions to apply for a $580,000 Community Development Bloc Grant, a $350,000 Appalachian Region Commission grant and a $225,000 rail loan from the Mississippi Development Authority. The CDBG grant would require a $58,000 match from the county. 


"This project has changed on us probably 10 times since we began working with it a few years ago," said Brenda Lathan, vice president of economic development for the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link. "They will actually be just north of the (Severstal) steel mill on North Steel Road, which is across the road from where New Process will be." 


"We just want to thank everyone for working with us. Columbus, the Link, everybody," said Gerber. "Everyone has been very supportive of us throughout this whole process."