Steel Industry In Arkansas Grows With Bekaert And Zekelman Expansions

The expansions in the northern part of the state are adding significant manufacturing capabilities for these steel makers, while creating job opportunities for residents.

Bekaert Corporation is expanding its manufacturing facility in Van Buren, Arkansas, creating 38 new jobs at this site in the northwest region of the state. A leader in the steel wire transformation and coating technology sector, Bekaert produces steel wire and strands at the Van Buren facility. The company has operated in Van Buren since 1970, and made the expansion announcement on May 1.

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Bekaert Corp. ribbon cutting at its expanded steel wire plant in Van Buren, AR. (Photo: Bekaert)

“Bekaert is thankful for the recognition and support of the AEDC, and many other leaders, to invest in the Van Buren community,” said Bryan Sullivan, Vice President of steel wire solutions for Bekaert. “With this investment the community will see additional jobs, enhanced training and an advancement of manufacturing capabilities. Bekaert is proud to support not just the local community but our national community as well. The investment will be used to reinforce the backbone of the electrical grid, enhance access to renewable energy and bridge the digital divide in the U.S. today. Thank you to the [Arkansas Economic Development Commission] and all the Arkansas leaders who have made this possible.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Bekaert’s latest expansion in Van Buren and the jobs and investment it will bring. Arkansas’ strong workforce, low taxes, and pro-business environment is spurring growth across our state – and as Governor, I’m committed to enacting more policies that help great companies like Bekaert continue to thrive,” said Governor Sarah Sanders.

This is the company’s latest expansion at its Van Buren facility. In November 2021, the company announced an expansion in Van Buren to increase its wire stranding production capabilities, which created 35 new jobs at the facility. As part of this project, the company is investing in the Van Buren factory to purchase new manufacturing equipment. This equipment will be used for supporting the electrical grid and telecommunications industries.

The facility expansion is currently underway and is expected to be completed in 2025.

“Bekaert sets the bar high for the steel wire industry, and we are excited that they continue to expand in Arkansas,” said Clint O’Neal, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. “Van Buren is a great Arkansas community with a supportive business climate; congratulations to the local leadership on this economic development milestone.”

In Mississippi County, Zekelman Industries Invests $120 Million

Another recent expansion for Arkansas’ metal industry is the announcement that Zekelman Industries, the largest independent steel pipe and tube manufacturer in North America, will invest up to $120 million to expand the manufacturing capabilities and product offerings of its subsidiary, Atlas Tube, in Mississippi County. The project will bring Zekelman’s total number of employees in northeastern Arkansas to more than 300. During the unveiling, the manufacturer also announced it will partner with Arkansas Northeastern College on a new workforce training initiative.

“Education and skills training are crucial to developing the next generation of workers. Our goal at Zekelman is to prepare, nurture and inspire students entering the thriving and well-paying steel industry,” said Tom Muth, Chief Operating Officer. “Our commitment is representative of our partnership with the Blytheville community and ongoing dedication to domestic-only manufacturing. We are particularly grateful to Mayor Logan and Mississippi County for their continued support.”

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Zekelman Industries steel manufacturing plant in Mississippi County, AR. (Photo: Zekelman Industries)

A manufacturer of hollow structural sections and steel pipe, Zekelman currently operates two Atlas Tube facilities in Blytheville, AR. This new project will allow it to manufacture inline steel tube galvanizing products in size ranges not currently available in North America.

“Northeast Arkansas is powering a manufacturing boom in the Natural State and quickly becoming one of the top steel-producing regions in America,” said Gov. Sanders. “I’m grateful that Zekelman Industries is not only expanding its footprint in this region but also investing in career and technical education. This type of public-private partnership is exactly what we need to train the next generation of steelworkers.”

Mississippi County is Atlas Tube’s primary manufacturing hub for its southeast and southwest operations. Since 2011, Zekelman Industries has completed multiple projects at its Blytheville site, including expanding and modernizing its plant and warehouse. In 2022, Atlas Tube opened a second facility, the world’s largest continuous ERW mill, at an adjoining property with a more than $250 million capital investment.

“Zekelman Industries is a major steel producer and a valued member of Arkansas’ business community. We are proud that Zekelman has chosen to expand in Blytheville,” said O’Neal of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. “Mississippi County is the leading steel-producing county in the nation — this is made possible by great companies and visionary local leaders.”

Along with the expansion, Zekelman said it would provide $250,000 to Arkansas Northeastern College to support area students in the steel industry and aviation maintenance degree programs. The funds, distributed over the next five years, will cover educational costs for at least 10 individuals annually who are obtaining associates of applied science. Benefitting Arkansas Northeastern College students will also have the opportunity to pursue potential internship positions at Atlas Tube’s facilities in Blytheville.

“Arkansas Northeastern College has a strong track record of success in working alongside area employers to design tailored training programs that meet industries’ needs,” said Dr. Chris Heigle, President. “These partnerships benefit our students, equipping them with the real-world skills needed to secure good-paying jobs while fueling the growth of our region’s economy.”

“Mississippi County’s business climate makes it a prime location for companies like Zekeman to establish and expand their operations,” said Clif Chitwood, President of the Great River Economic Development Foundation. “Our trained workforce, supported by institutions like Arkansas Northeastern College, is one of the many factors that sets us apart and allows manufacturers to flourish here.”

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