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Louisiana, Alabama wait for steel plant decision

NEW ORLEANS (AP)— With a decision expected in May, there’s no public indication of whether Louisiana or Alabama has the upper hand for getting a $2.9 billion steel plant — one of the largest economic development projects aimed at the South in years.

Most details of the negotiations with German conglomerate ThyssenKrupp AG have been kept secret since the company eliminated Arkansas from consideration in January, leaving Alabama and Louisiana as finalists.

The plant is expected to employ 2,700 people when it begins producing steel in 2010. Up to 40,000 construction workers are expected to build the 6.6 million-square-foot facility.

The plant will produce carbon steel and stainless steel for automakers, electrical companies, appliance manufacturers and others, ThyssenKrupp says.

On April 3, Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Mike Olivier gave one of his few public statements about the bidding during a legislative hearing, in which he said Louisiana’s final offer fell below what ThyssenKrupp had wanted.

However, Olivier said he didn’t believe Alabama had met the request, either. He wouldn’t say what the company was seeking, or what Louisiana offered. But he said Louisiana had made its final offer to ThyssenKrupp — and that the state couldn’t go any higher.

“It’s a very expensive project, and I don’t know that any state could meet that expectation,” Olivier said.

Alabama officials wouldn’t comment. All ThyssenKrupp would say is that the company is analyzing the proposals and hoped to make a decision “as soon as possible.” The final decision will be made by ThyssenKrupp’s board in Germany.

The proposed Louisiana site for the plant is in St. James Parish, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, along the Mississippi River. In Alabama, a site near Mobile is under consideration. Last month, the company filed applications for the environmental permits in both states.

Late last year, the Louisiana Legislature approved a $300 million fund for site improvements and construction; Blanco wants lawmakers to add another $100 million. In Alabama, Riley got the legislature to approve $400 million in borrowing authority to draw ThyssenKrupp and other industrial projects. Both states also have bond authority that could be used in the bidding.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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