Steel company considers plant

Ozkan Steel USA is looking at sites across south Louisiana to build a $150 million plant that will make steel for the shipbuilding industry and employ up to 350 people once completed.

Fehmi Nuhoglu, the vice president for investments and strategic development for Ozkan, which is based in Houston and is the American company of Ozkan Demir Celik, of Turkey, said the company plans to select a site by June.

The facility would be built in three stages. The first phase, a facility to sort scrap metal, would open this summer, Nuhoglu said. Construction of the second phase, a melting plant, would start in June 2014. Work would start on the final phase, a rolling plant, in June 2015.

Nuhoglu was in Baton Rouge last week and said he met with representatives from Louisiana Economic Development and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, who showed him potential sites for the plant. He also said he met with officials from the World Trade Center in New Orleans and the Port of New Orleans. Ozkan is looking for a 50-acre site on the Mississippi River with a deepwater port.

Ozkan likes the Baton Rouge area as a site because of the Mississippi River, the ports and the cooperation from local economic development agencies, Nuhoglu said.

Officials with LED and BRAC did not respond to calls. The two agencies have a policy of not discussing potential economic development projects.

Being on the Mississippi River is important for Ozkan. The plan is for the facility to receive loads of scrap metal from up north, which would then be sorted at the plant. The metal would be melted and rolled, then sold to shipyards across the Gulf Coast and in Canada and Brazil, Nuhoglu said.

Ozkan Steel USA has been operating in the U.S. since 2011. The company sells steel to high-profile clients, such as Bollinger Shipyards, Edison Chouest Offshore, Gulf Island Fabrication and VT Halter Marine, Nuhoglu said.

Right now, Ozkan is shipping scrap metal from the U.S. to Turkey, where it is sorted, melted and transported back to customers in North and South America. By opening an American facility, the company will be able to better serve clients and reduce time and costs, Nuhoglu said.

“We are committed to this investment,” he said. The only question for Ozkan is if it will be able to get a good supply of high-quality scrap metal, Nuhoglu said.

Once the facility is fully operational, it will produce 300,000 tons of steel a year. That’s far less than the multiphase, $3.4 billion Nucor Corp. steel plant, which has its first-phase, $750 million direct-reduced iron plant under construction in St. James Parish. Once all its phases are completed, Nucor would have 1,250 employees and would produce millions of tons of steel per year.

Ozkan produces a more specialized product on a smaller scale than Nucor does, Nuhoglu said.