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$975 million steel factory under construction in Shreveport

Kate Archer Kent

Benteler Steel/Tube has started construction on its hot rolling steel tube mill at the Port of Caddo-Bossier. Gov. Bobby Jindal joined Benteler officials for a groundbreaking ceremony yesterday to formally kick-off the project that is slated to cost $975 million. It will be the Germany company's first factory in the United States.

The project is estimated to create 675 full-time jobs. Benteler International AG chief financial officer Boris Gleissner said his company will partner with Bossier Parish Community College for a specially-tailored manufacturing program that will be a pipeline to the jobs. He said finding enough skilled labor will be critical.

"We can make a lot of investment in the hardware in the plant, but decisive in the end is how good people are in the factory and how well they’re trained," Gleissner said, of an investment that is expected to generate more than 2,200 direct and indirect jobs in northwest Louisiana.

Gleissner said the average annual wage at the plant will be $50,000, filled mostly by hourly workers. He said his company will look outside the state to find expertise for its manufacturing processes. Initially, he estimates upwards of 50 employees from Benteler's headquarters in Germany and Austria will temporarily relocate to Shreveport to get the first phase of the plant up and running.

“We will try to choose the best of both worlds. For the specific processes, it is Benteler who will bring in the knowledge. And for all the more common things, it will come from here," Gleissner said.

The Louisiana site was chosen from more than 100 possible locations in 13 states due to its proximity to the North American oil and gas production market and the area's manufacturing base. Officials say the facility will create more than 1,000 construction jobs, which is slated to be completed by late next year.

Gleissner said the plant will be nonunion unless its employees organize, in which case, he said, he’d work with them to be accommodative.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' experience to Red River Radio having started out as a radio news reporter and moving into television journalism as a newsmagazine producer / host, talk-show moderator, programming director and managing producer and news director / anchor for commercial, public broadcasting and educational television. He has more recently worked in advertising, marketing and public relations as a writer, video producer and media consultant. In pursuit of higher learning, Chuck studied Mass Communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.