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Arkansas Inc. Podcast: David Stickler

 May 25, 2022
In this episode of the Arkansas Inc. Podcast, former Big River Steel CEO David Stickler discusses his background as a steel executive, the steel industry in Arkansas, and the recent U.S. Steel announcement in Osceola.


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David Stickler: Hello there. This is Dave Stickler, I'm CEO of Global Principal Partners. And this is the Arkansas Inc. Podcast.

Narrator: Welcome to the Arkansas Inc. Podcast, where we discuss the latest topics and trends in economic development with subject matter experts and influencers from across the nation and around the world.

Jack Thomas: Welcome to the Arkansas Inc. Podcast. My name is Jack Thomas and I serve a senior project manager for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. Over the last 10 years, the steel industry has emerged as one of Arkansas's fastest growing sectors. In the Northeast corner of our state, Mississippi County is set to become the largest steel-producing county in the United States. In January, U.S. Steel announced plans to build the most advanced steel-making facility in North America in Osceola, Arkansas, a three billion dollar investment that'll create 900 jobs. Making this the largest capital investment project in Arkansas's history. In addition to U.S. Steel, Arkansas has had multiple steel industry wins thus far in 2022. W&W|AFCO Steel announced plans to expand its Arkansas operations with a new steel fabrication facility at the Port of Little Rock. The Systems Group announced an expansion at its fabrication and machine shop in El Dorado, and Atlas Tube has opened the doors for its new mill in Blytheville, which is the largest ERW mill in the world. To say that the steel industry has become a major part of the Arkansas economy is an understatement. We wanted to share more about what's behind the growth of steel in Arkansas and the trends that are shaping the industry. And to do that, we have a very special guest joining us on the Arkansas Inc. Podcast. A man that Forbes called the Steve Jobs of steel. Today, I'm joined by Dave stickler with Global Principal Partners, former chief executive officer for Big River Steel, and a key player in U.S. Steel's historic investment in Arkansas. Dave, it's a pleasure to be with you. Welcome to the Arkansas Inc. Podcast.

David Stickler: Thank you. I'm excited to join you today,

Jack Thomas: Dave, I appreciate it. There's been so much talk about this U.S. Steel project. And clearly we'll get to that in a minute. But as we open up with your background, I figured it would only be fitting to tell you this. So I was with a site location consultant out of Dallas right around the time the U.S. Steel project announced. And he was asking me if a site consultant had led that project. And I paused and I thought to myself, no, it wasn't led by a site consultant. I told him that the project was led by a guy named Dave Stickler. And I paused, and I thought to myself, how in the world would you describe Dave Stickler. To call you a consultant doesn't it fit. To call you an investment banker or even a steel executive exclusively also doesn't quite do it justice. So I looked at him and I said, man, he's Stickler. I don't know how else to describe him. So I think anybody that's worked with you understands that dilemma and understands how hard it is to just strictly categorize you as solely one, one job title or one function. So, Dave, tell us your story, your background in business, and tell us a little bit about where you are today.

David Stickler: Well, appreciate that question. And it's really been an interesting ride for the last 25 years in putting these large green field scrap metal recycling steel production facilities in place, primarily across North America, but in some cases overseas as well. But really, started my career 25 years ago on Wall Street as a young punk investment banker. Got to know one of my first clients, believe it or not, was U.S. Steel. At that time one of the leading steel producers, not only in North America but the world in terms of tons produced and qualities of steel. There was some new technology that was coming out of Germany that rather than producing flat rolled steel, which is the steels used by automobiles, appliance manufacturers, construction projects, et cetera, that historically had been produced using coal and iron ore, massive, massive facilities, quite frankly, real challenges to the environment, but this new technology coming out of Germany allowed us to produce flat rolled steel using scrap metal. So essentially what we began to do was take old cars, old appliances melt those old cars, old appliances in electric arc furnaces and produce flat rolled steel, with a lot less people, a lot less challenges to the environment. And I guess probably from a visual perspective for those listening on the call, a older historic mill, like U.S. Steel, which are referred to as integrated mills, they would start with a slab of Morton steel, eight to 12 inches thick. Our mini mills, we started with the slab two inches thick. So you need a lot less equipment, a lot less people, a lot less energy to go from two inches thick to the thinness of a hood of a car versus eight to 12 inches thick. So that started our venture. First Greenfield was a project where Mitt Romney, who at that time was running Bain Capital, was one of the lead investors. That project, Steel Dynamics, was located in North Indiana. And today, Steel Dynamics, 25 years later, continues to be one of the most profitable steel producers in North America year and year out. And once you are successful in completing a project like that, other opportunities begin to show up on your doorstep. In over that 25-year period, I've gone from structuring the transactions, raising the capital, and then moving on to structuring the transaction, raising the capital, investing my own money in my projects, and then managing the projects. So in a very brief, condensed version, that's where I started and what I do today.

Jack Thomas: Not the traditional background for those in the steel industry to start on Wall Street, but certainly has helped you through the years. You talked about the new technology, you talked about EAA and flat-rolled steel. And that's what we saw with the U.S. Steel project that I mentioned to you in the intro that we announced in January together. Clearly, that was a high profile project. And for good reason, the largest economic development project by capital investment in state history. Dave, I want to dive straight into to that project and give listeners an understanding of what brought that deal together. So on October 1st of 2021, U.S. Steel issued a press release announcing their intent to seek a location for a new mini mill. And after that press release our team at AEDC got involved. And three days later, Governor Hutchinson is on the phone with U.S. Steel CEO, Dave Burritt, making the case for Arkansas. And Mike Preston, Clint O’Neal, Bentley Story, and Jim Hudson, four guys, they took the lead for us on that project, structuring the deal on our end. And after that call with the governor, there was quite a bit of back and forth in the months of October and in November. And I know we worked through some pretty minute details during that period of time, structuring the deal. I remember... Dave, it is funny. I remember Thanksgiving Day, I'm sitting there in Jonesboro, Arkansas, in between plates of turkey and desserts. The Cowboys are on TV. And my phone lights up with an email with the subject, happy Thanksgiving from Stickler. We're pulling this deal together and you take no days off. But that helped us get closer and closer. And you fast forward from there to early December and the state legislature convened in a special session to pass the largest tax cut in Arkansas history. And also passed critical legislation to amend the recycling tax credit law. And from there, a few weeks went by. And on December 17th, U.S. Steel CEO, Dave Burritt let us know that they had selected Arkansas for the project. And ultimately it was announced to the public on January 12th and a shovel was in the ground on February 8th, where we all got to go up to Osceola and celebrate together. But clearly, a fast moving project, start to finish, four months from announcing the site search to selecting a location. And clearly, when you set out to deploy three billion dollars in capital in a new facility, there's extensive due diligence that has to be done from a site analysis standpoint. So Dave, walk us through what that process looked like on your end, what the site search looked like, and how many sites were in consideration, and what that whole process looked like on your end.

David Stickler: Sure. Sure. Happy to discuss that because it was a fast-paced take-no-prisoners type effort. And it really was one of my first times to, since my early days on Wall Street, work with U.S. Steel. U.S. Steel is 120-year-old company. Their first automotive customer was Henry Ford in the Model T. The project that I had just most recently completed. Another highly successful project in Arkansas called Big River Steel, our first automotive customer was Elon Musk in the Model X. So you're taking two organizations or two different cultures and trying to streamline them such that we can put in place a three billion dollar environmentally sustainable flat rolled steel production facility in a very, very condensed timeframe. What we did was we had a small team that was empowered. Keyword was empowered. All right? We were not going to be able to meet that timeframe if we went through the more traditional U.S. Steel decision making process, which is committee, upon committee, upon committee. So we initially decided that in order to get this completed, we would have regularly standing update calls and update meetings. Not decision calls, not decision meetings, but to keep the senior executive team at U.S. Steel and their board members updated on what we were doing. I will tell you when we said, we're going to get this site decided by the end of the year, which was right before the public announcement in October, there was a lot of head shaking and hand ringing from the U.S. Steel board about, can you really get something done that quickly? And we were confident that we could. But I will tell you, including on the morning of Thanksgiving as we were struggling with some of the aspects of the transaction, there were moments in time where we had our doubts. But we had a process that we followed. We reached out to 14 different states, primarily in the Southern United States, although not exclusively. And we ultimately evaluated 42 sites. Now we didn't have boots on the ground on all 42 sites, but the vast majority of them we did. And there were literally weeks where we would be flying from site to site. Oftentimes two, sometimes three site visits a day. And because U.S. Steel is a public company, we wanted to keep this very confidential on where we were looking, what we were doing. But the three major drivers on a project like this are electrical power rate, access to your raw materials and end markets, and logistics. So let's take the easy one of those three first, which is access to raw material and end markets. The Southern United States is rich in scrap metal, which is the primary raw material. Again, as I mentioned earlier, old cars, old appliances, material steel that comes out of bridge demolition projects, et cetera. And the Southern United States, anyone who's in business understands that industrial America, from the twenties, and thirties, and forties, which tended to be in the Northern states, has shifted over the last 20 years or so to the Southern part of the United States. In fact, for those of us in the steel industry, we talk about the Southern automotive corridor. And the area in Northeast Arkansas is right dead smack in the middle of that Southern automotive corridor. So the Southern area for raw material supply, access to markets, check that box. We then talked about electrical power. Electrical power is critically, critically important to these projects. And I personally had had some very, very positive experience with Entergy Arkansas on another very, very large project. In fact, prior to the U.S. Steel announcement, that was the largest industrial investment in the history of Arkansas. But I told the governor and Mike Preston, I said, Entergy Arkansas is going to have to roll up its sleeves. We're going to need them to work much quicker than I think what they would typically, the pace that they would be working at. We talked to the CEO, Laura, of Entergy Arkansas and her team. And they assured us that they could meet a timeframe. And we began some negotiations with Entergy Arkansas. In addition, we were negotiating with several other power companies in other states. And then the third component is logistics. Northeast Arkansas has direct access to the Mississippi River. And we have known the barge operators that operate on that Mississippi River for 25 years now. So we have very good relationships with them. Arkansas is also one of the leading states in terms of highway transportation and trucking industry. There are some very, very large trucking companies headquartered in Arkansas, Maverick Trucking, J.B. Hunt, several others. So from a barge and truck, Arkansas checked the boxes. But then we have the third logistics component, which is rail. And in the United States, it's an oligopoly. There are a handful of class one railroads. And they each have certain lanes that they run on. Each have certain access points that they serve. And you need to make sure that when you make a decision on where to place a three billion dollar investment, that you're going to have quality and economical rail service for decades, not just a few weeks, not just a few months, not just for a year or two, but for decades. And I told the governor and Mike Preston, I said, look, I'm fairly confident we'll get the power. I'm not so confident we'll get the rail. And to both of the governors and Mike's credit, they said, Dave, anything we can do to be helpful with the railroad, please let us know. I said, okay, no action required upfront. But if we hit a stumbling block, I'm certainly going to pick up the phone and let you know. So in addition to negotiating with the BNSF Railroad that serves the Northeast Arkansas area, we were parallel negotiating with the rail service providers on the other sites. We ultimately narrowed the site selection down to three sites. And it has been reported in the press what the final three sites were. So I'm comfortable talking about those today. We had a site in North Alabama on the Tennessee River that bordered the State of Tennessee right across the river. In fact, you could stand on the site and look across the river and see the State of Tennessee. We also had a site in the central-western part of the State of Mississippi. And I will tell you that all three states, the governors of all three states, the railroads that served each of those sites, and the power companies that served each of those sites were all extremely, extremely aggressive in pursuing this site. Again, three billion dollar investments don't come around every day, especially those that create 900 high-paying jobs. But in the end, under the leadership of the governor and Mike Preston, with the support of the top echelons of Entergy Arkansas, and the support of the top, top management of BNSF Railroad, which quite frankly is owned by Warren Buffet and Berkshire, one of the companies that he owns a hundred percent of, the combination of the state, the power company in the railroad gave us full confidence that we were making the right decision to invest in Northeast Arkansas. We then had one final hurdle, which was some special legislation. Given the size and magnitude of this project. There were certain incentives that were put on the table by Arkansas that required legislative approval. And through a special session, I couldn't be more proud to say overwhelming support by both houses of the legislative bodies there in Arkansas. I will tell you that from an incentive perspective, the two other states were as competitive, in one case significantly more competitive. So we never cite these projects based just on economic incentives. That's a recipe for a disaster. The big three items that I talked about earlier. Raw material and market access, electrical power, and logistics, those three are the drivers that lead at least my group for the site selections.

Jack Thomas: That's awesome, Dave. Appreciate the background. There's so much that goes on behind the scenes in these projects. So it's great to hear your perspective and what that looked like on the flip side of the deal. Bringing deals like this together takes a great team to win. And you mentioned our team in Arkansas got a lot of respect for the teams in Mississippi and Tennessee as well, and several friends in those states in the industry. And that's what makes this profession so much fun, is getting to compete. And as a native of Arkansas, getting to represent our state in these large scale, competitive economic development deals, it's a ton of fun. And it's something that fires all of us up at AEDC to go out and win. So I want to go back to something that you touched on because this is such a neat story of how U.S. Steel cut its teeth 120 years ago, supplying steel to Henry Ford. And here we are in 2022, thanks to the work that's been done by the Big River Steel team, supplying steel to Elon Musk and Tesla. Such a neat story of innovation. And clearly you deserve a lot of credit for bringing that to life. We talked about the timetable of this project. And we work in an industry where projects take a year or a year and a half to complete, and certainly projects of this magnitude, but this one was done incredibly fast. And when you look at that, and you look at the relationship that our state has with Big River Steel, that set the stage for this project. And I know you had a great relationship with Arkansas prior to this project because of the work that was done on the original Big River Steel project with Bentley Story, Bryan Scoggins, and the team. So give listeners a little bit of background on your previous relationship with Arkansas in the original Big River Steel project.

David Stickler: Sure. Thank you for that. So Big River Steel was a project that was a 1.6 billion investment. We again were searching in the Southern United States for a site to locate that project. We quite frankly had not completed a project in Arkansas prior to Big River Steel. So it was again a... Part of the effort was introducing who we were, what we did. On that particular project, it was not U.S. Steel 120-year history. It was five people with 1.6 billion in the bank looking for a site to build what we believed would be the world's leading environmentally, sustainable scrap metal, recycling steel production facility. And on that, I can't remember precisely how many sites we looked at, but if we looked at 42 sites in the four-month period for the U.S. Steel project, that project was not a four-month effort. It was actually just slightly over a year, as you mentioned. So it's likely we were significantly above the 42 sites. But anyway, we had a very similar set of criteria. You'll recall I mentioned that I've been doing this for 25 years. We looked at market access. Check the box of the United States perfect place to build these mills. Electrical power. We thought, again, we had a real opportunity when we were citing Big River Steel to get an attractive power rate from enter Entergy Arkansas. And then we had had previous experience elsewhere with the BNSF Railroad, which was favorable. And let me make one point, if I may, just as a thought came to my mind. On the electrical power rate, it's important to me, and I know it's important to the public service commission, that the power rate that's offered for these projects is not a subsidized rate. In other words, the rate has to be neutral such that the other rate payers are not subsidizing a large industrial project. And although we get highly attractive power rates, the fact of the matter is we run 24/7, 340 days a year. We're down a couple of weeks during the year for scheduled maintenance purposes. So during the day, our power rate might be lower than what other rate payers are paying. But at night when we're chewing up a tremendous amount of power and power is at times almost free because you can't really turn off a nuclear power generation and certain other power generations, we're actually paying above what would be at that moment in time electrical power rates. So you blend those two together, we get favorable rates, but they are in no way subsidized rates. So we ultimately decided, working with a Democratic administration at the time, Governor Beebe, that we would put this project in Arkansas, Big River Steel, 1.6 billion dollars. And our first day in business, we had five people sitting in a windowless conference room at a Holiday Inn up in Blytheville, Arkansas. And we began ordering the computers, printing the business cards, getting the cell phone numbers for the business, et cetera. And ultimately hired just over 500 people. We had committed to the State of Arkansas that those 500 people would be paid no less than $75,000 a year on average. And when we make these commitments, we always leave a little bit of room. And we built that project ourselves. We did not have a turnkey contractor. Took 27 months to build. Set the world record as far as startup percentage of capacity in the first month of operation, just below 60% of capacity. Were profitable from an EBITDA earnings before interest taxes, depreciation, and amortization our second month of operation and never looked back. We took that project and submitted it for LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. And people may see LEED plaques on hospital buildings, government office buildings, certain universities are LEED certified, but never before had an industrial company, especially an industrial company as large as Big River Steel, applied for LEED certification. And quite frankly, some people thought we were nuts, including some of my employees. They said, Dave LEED certification for a steel mill, no way. You're wasting your time. You're wasting your money. You're wasting our effort. And you're going to embarrass ourselves. I said, well, let's just try. And my idea was that if we were LEED certified, and our steel was selling for, as an example, $1,200 a ton, and one of our competitors steel was selling for $1,200 a ton, everything else being equal, we'd get the order. So I viewed it as a tiebreaker. And I'm not a gambler, but people who go to Vegas and they play Blackjack, they know that the house wins on the tie. And a lot of casinos are very, very successful. I said, I'll take the tiebreaker. Anyway, we went ahead and became LEED certified. That project was the Gold Standard as far as reduced carbon admissions. I'm going to give you and your listeners the data point here. If you look globally, the average flat rolled steel producer, for every ton of steel produced 1.85 tons of carbon goes in the air. So average for the world is one ton of steel, 1.85 tons of carbon in the air. At Big River, for every ton of steel we produced, we only admitted 0.123 tons of carbon. 15 times less than the world average. So now we've got LEED certification, we've got the Gold Standard for carbon admissions. And that leads to companies like Daimler Mercedes to come knocking on our door. And they say, we've watched you, we've seen what you've done. We'd only been operating for 18 months when they came knocking on our door. And they said, we would like to work with you as our North American sustainability steel supplier. So we put in a number of programs with Daimler Mercedes that allowed us to produce steel and get it to their facilities with minimal, minimal carbon impact. Taking that whole story a step further, last year, Big River Steel was selected on a global basis by Daimler Mercedes as their sustainability supplier of the year, not just for steel, but for everything that they buy, glass, plastic, leather, aluminum, steel. And for a company that was really in its infancy to be able to achieve that recognition from Daimler Mercedes really, really set us apart. All of what I just told you was a driver in U.S. Steel looking to purchase Big River Steel. Another driver was this. If you look at a company like U.S. Steel, very, very successful, lot of good quality people there, but a lot of people. If you take the production of U.S. Steel and divide it by the number of employees, it's about 900 tons of steel per year, per worker. Okay? And that's across all levels of the organization, not just steel production. If you take Big River Steel and you take our number of employees and you take the tons of steel we produced it's 5,000 tons of steel per year, per employee. Highly, highly labor efficient. So in addition to all of the environmental accolades that I talked about, the labor efficiency, the culture, the ability to March into a company like the Tesla and begin dealing with down right, right off the bat was very attractive to U.S. Steel that was looking to pivot away from the integrated steel-making technology. Again, iron ore, coal, eight to 12 inch thick slabs, to the, as you mentioned, mini mill electric arc furnace steel-making technology, which really is, again, recycling. Take old cars, old refrigerators and make new steel out of it rather than starting with iron ore and coal. And that labor productivity, my goal is always this, I want to have the highest paid steel workers in the world. I just don't want to have a whole lot of them. Okay? So at Big River last year, it's been discussed in public, the average worker made over $200,000. And that's in a rural community, Osceola, Arkansas, of 5,000 people. And there's stories when you pay those type of wages that bring tears to your eyes. One of them is I had a gentleman come in to my office and he says, Mr. Stickler, I said, who's Mr. Stickler. He said, well, you're. I said, no, no, I'm Dave. And they said, well, Dave, my wife and I, we have five children. And we've been struggling to figure out how we could possibly send two or three of them to college. With the wages that I'm making here, we now can afford to send all five of them. And those really, they bring tears to your eye when you hear those stories. And he said, thank you. I said, no, thank you. Because the way we pay our people is this. We say, here's your base wage. It's okay. It's not great. Here's your base wage. But if you operate safely, if you produce quality steel, and you produce a lot of it, there's no cap on how much money you can make. No cap. So we have weeks where peoples... And we pay weekly production bonuses. I've had weeks where we've paid 285% production bonuses. Because we're running wide and thick and the mills really dialed in. I set a goal one week for the team. I said, hey let's see if we can get to a 300% production bonus. Well, we made the 285%. But typically what you'll see on our projects is a minimum of two-thirds of the weekly pay is production bonus-related. And we tie everybody in the company to production bonuses. We had the janitorial staff on production bonuses. And people say, Dave, they don't make steel. I say no, but they keep the plant clean. And when we have our customers or potential customers come through and they see a clean plant, they're inclined to buy more because in their mind they're going to think we are truly a high-quality steel producer, which we are. And then I put to security guards on the production bonus. And they said, Dave, security guards. They don't produce steel. I said, no, but they get the trucks in and out. And that's critically important in today's environment. I said that if a trucker knows he can come in, he'll be treated with respect at the gate, he'll be directed to where the coy of steel he's going to be picked up is, and he gets his paperwork and gets out the door, he's going to come to Big River Steel versus one of our competitors. So there's a method to this madness of paying production bonuses to even those that are not directly tied to the production. So the Big River Steel, great to story for the State of Arkansas, great story for all of the employees, and now proudly owned by U.S. Steel. And that investment from U.S. Steel in Big River Steel led to the U.S. Steel three billion dollars investment in Arkansas in the new mill we're currently building.

Jack Thomas: Man, such a powerful story. You hear examples like that shows just how impactful these projects are. Dave, you mentioned the workforce and the labor productivity. And I want to touch on that real quickly for a minute about the types of people in that workforce. John Carini, who you had a wonderful relationship with, an icon in the steel industry, talked about how Arkansas was steel mill heaven. And I've heard you say that what we had when Carini was around and working in the steel industry, we have today to a much greater degree. So let's shift gears real quick and want to talk about labor for just one minute. Because we're in an era where, across the country, labor numbers are declining. And there's a nationwide trend that's permeated every economic development project that we're seeing, that others are seeing around the country. Clearly, the wage rates, the productivity bonuses have something to do with attracting and retaining these employees. But I love what Carini used to say when he talked about the workforce and rural areas. He said that he'll take somebody off the farm and put them in a steel mill because they've got the work ethic, they'll roll up their sleeves and do it better and faster than anybody else. And to a degree that's, that's still the attitude of Arkansans. Plus, now we have some of the finest workforce development institutions in the country, especially within the steel industry, with the Arkansas Steelmaking Academy at Arkansas Northeastern College. So, Dave, real quick, from the standpoint of finding quality, hard work, and talent, what's your experience been like in Arkansas?

David Stickler: Yeah. I tell you that work ethic is second to none. We work 12-hour shifts. So you're on 12 hours, you're off 12 hours. So one week you work four days and then you have three days off. The next week, you work three days and you have four days off. And because we work 12-hour shifts, people are willing to travel a little bit further. All right. If you're going to drive an hour, an hour and 15 minutes from one of these communities that might not be right on top of where we put the mill, you're going to want to stay at work. And then you're going to enjoy the three or four-day weekend with your family. So I think the combination of the 12-hour shifts, I think the combination of the production bonus, and then just that rural work ethic has proven to be a winning, winning formula in Arkansas. We've put now almost $6 billion of investment in Arkansas, between the original Big River Steel, some of the expansions we did at Big River Steel, and now the $3 billion of investment the U.S. Steel project. And then the workforce training program that I know, that the Arkansas economic development groups, the regional economic development groups, the governor's office are hugely, hugely supportive of. Those have really proven to be a real, real strong point for us being able to set these production and quality records. I don't need someone who has steel-making experience. In fact, sometimes I say I'd really prefer people that don't have steel-making experience. Because if they come from a company that's producing 900 tons of steel per year per worker, it's a much different environment at a company like Big River Steel, and now what will be U.S. Steel's new investment, where you're producing 5,000 tons of steel per year per worker. We emphasize technology, technology, technology. In fact, when we put these Big River Steel together, our goal was to be a technology company that just happened to make steel. So it's a great thing. We find these young professionals that have grown up working on their computers, working on their iPads, working on their cell phones, they're computer literate. And instead of... When I first started this, way back when I was on Wall Street, steel-making was 80% bran 20% brains. Today at Big River Steel, and at the new U.S. Steel investment that we're making, it's 90% brains, 10% bran. You don't need to be a big, burly high school linebacker or high school basketball player to produce steel. Most of our workforce is sitting in a pulpit, working, looking at computer screens. And in reality, all they're doing is monitoring those screens. We've got the technology that a lot of the steel making is automated. Certainly, our employees have the ability to tweak and override and change what the automated conditions are saying, but it's a much, much different environment. I remember my first steel mill that I went through on the south side of Chicago. I had to hold my nose. When I walked out, my work boots were filthy black. My hands were covered in soot. You come to Big River Steel, you don't see any of that. It is completely, completely different environment. And the new U.S. Steel investment is going to be even one step above.

Jack Thomas: I love it. I love it. Well, Dave, this has been great. Our team appreciates you. And our team's hard at work out every day telling the story of Arkansas. And what helps us is having experts like you sharing your experience and telling the same story. So I appreciate you taking some time to join us this morning. I appreciate your partnership in advancing the steel industry in Arkansas. And we look forward to seeing you soon.

David Stickler: Well, I appreciate that. And then please rest assured that I would not hesitate to make another very large investment in Arkansas, given the opportunity. So thank you for your interest in the Big River Steel story. Thank you for your interest in the U.S. Steel story. And thank you for your interest in all things steel. That's what we're all about. Jack Thomas: I love it. I love it. Thanks, Dave. Appreciate you.

David Stickler: All right. Have a great day. Bye-bye

Jack Thomas: Thanks for tuning in. You've been listening to the Arkansas Inc. Podcast. My name's Jack Thomas senior project manager for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. You can subscribe to the Arkansas Inc. Podcast on Apple podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, and other podcast apps. For more information about AEDC and to sign up for our monthly newsletter, visit Arkansasedc.com. And connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Thanks for listening.