More than 100 sites compete for new Benteler facility
In 2011, Benteler Group, a 135-year-old Austria-based company, was exporting up to 25 percent of its steel tube production to the United States. This high concentration of export volume presented the company with a new opportunity to more effectively deliver its product to customers. Executives from the Benteler Group's steel/tube division made the strategic decision to expand operations into North America and build their first hot-rolling tube mill in the U.S.
The company looked at locations across the United States for this new production center, evaluating more than 100 sites across 13 states. Benteler sought a location with the necessary qualities for such a large investment. Company officials wanted a location with access to waterways and interstates, and sustaining support from the region in which they would invest. Most importantly, the company required a talented workforce familiar with manufacturing processes to support the proposed investment.
While in close competition with neighboring southern states, Louisiana's economic climate and workforce features received a closer examination from Benteler. In August 2011, Benteler began discussions with LED to see if Louisiana could support the development of the company's first U.S.-based operation.
Louisiana creates a custom-fit solution for Benteler
Louisiana was naturally equipped to provide a sturdy location for Benteler's new facility. State and local officials identified an ideal location for Benteler's proposed hot-rolling tube mill at The Port of Caddo-Bossier in Northwest Louisiana, located near the Red River.
This strategic location allowed Benteler to ship their products easily to regions along the river. In addition to this site, the Red River Waterway Commission, the Port of Caddo-Bossier and the Caddo Parish Commission agreed to contribute a combined $11.6 million for all infrastructure improvements to support the new facility at the port.
To address the company's crucial workforce needs, the state offered the services of LED FastStart® — the No. 1 workforce program in the country. Additionally, state officials partnered with the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation, the City of Bossier and the Bossier Parish Police Jury to facilitate the construction of a new training facility to support a pipeline of talent for Benteler.
LED's customized package for the steel/tube division of Benteler also included several performance-based grants to reimburse site development, infrastructure and equipment costs incurred by the port and the company during the first years of construction.
Benteler forges ahead in Louisiana
The customized incentive package developed by LED officials and their partners in Northwest Louisiana met the Benteler's needs. In October 2012, after an extensive search across the country, Benteler executives announced the location for their first North American investment, selecting the Port of Caddo-Bossier in Shreveport.
"By removing obstacles, reducing bureaucracy, providing meaningful support and eliminating roadblocks, Louisiana officials at all levels convinced us that this state is the ideal location for our production facility," said Benteler CEO Matthias Jaeger. "Those officials were willing to work closely with us to create an environment and a set of initiatives that made our decision an easy one."
Benteler executives announced a major two-phase development. The first phase is a seamless steel tube mill, and the second phase is a steel mill. The project will create 675 jobs and, together, the steel tube mill and the steel mill will be 1.35 million square feet and will sit on 330 acres at The Port of Caddo-Bossier.
In September 2013, state leaders and Benteler executives again joined together to break ground on the $975 million project, announcing that the project was scheduled for an expected completion in the third quarter of 2015.
New training center in Bossier Parish provides talent pipeline for Benteler
Company officials cited Louisiana's contribution to Benteler's development needs as the competitive edge that allowed the state to separate itself from competing states.
The $22 million, 65,000-square-foot Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering to be located at Bossier Parish Community College (BPCC) emerged from the partnership between Louisiana officials and Benteler leadership upon the initial announcement.
The center was officially dedicated in October 2014 and immediately began to support the training efforts for workers on Benteler's projects. The center features specialized equipment focused on manufacturing technology and is designed to specifically support Benteler with manufacturing skills training. At the center, Benteler trains workers on a mock steel-tube rolling station that simulates production in the Shreveport facility. Benteler can accommodate more than 220 employees at one time in the technical training space.
Once the company's hiring is ramped up and the necessary workforce is in place, the facility will also serve other manufacturers in the region in the future, ultimately becoming a regional hub for advanced manufacturing support and training. Training will be conducted by faculty from Bossier Parish Community College and officials from LED FastStart and Benteler, as well as specialized vendors. For BPCC, the new training facility serves students in the college's Division of Technology, Engineering and Mathematics while supporting certification programs targeting manufacturing skills.