U.S. Steel to Build Facility in Sumter County

U.S. Steel Corp. officials say they plan to build a $450 million plant on the Tennessee-Tombigbee River in Sumter County, in Alabama's economically depressed Black Belt region.

Gov. Bob Riley and U.S. Steel chief operating officer John Goodish made the announcement Friday at a meeting of the state Black Belt Action Commission in Montgomery.

"This project will transform much of the Black Belt in a way nothing else ever has," said Riley. "It will launch these communities toward a brighter future. It will bring a new hope to the families who live there, and its impact will last for generations. We promised to transform the Black Belt, to help this area reach its full potential, and with U.S. Steel's help, the promise is being fulfilled."

U.S. Steel officials say the facility will initially employ about 75 full-time workers and as many as 235 when the project is completed. They also said it will require about 250 construction workers.

The facility will use a new process to make an alloy to be used in steel production at the company's plant in Fairfield, near Birmingham.

"It's real hard," Dozia Braggs of Epes told Newscenter 11 Friday. "Ain't no jobs worth nothing around here."

So the announcement was welcome news in this small town.

"It's a transfusion. It's a blood transfusion and the mayor's motto is 'bringing the pride home' and this is one of his steps," said Valerie Lerche, public relations representative for the town of Epes. "He's done everything he could with marketing it, PR, bringing different celebrities into the town trying to build a new community center. It's just great and not just for Epes, but for the entire Sumter County."

"If anybody would like to be close to home, that'll be great!" said Frank Gibson, Jr., who lives in Epes.

"I mean, when you leave work you're tired. You're sleepy. Gas is high. So, maybe this will help," said Yashika Maxwell, who previously worked in Tuscaloosa. "It really will help."

"We don't have nothing for the people to do," said Epes resident Larry Leon Styes. "Just the Port of Epes in our community is about our biggest employer."

However, now the town of 200 will have another manufacturer aside from Mannington Flooring.

At least 250 workers will be needed for the building phase of the plant, which is expected to be open within about two years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.