Sulphur Springs ISD Board of Trustees Monday evening agreed to review an application for an appraised value limitation on qualified property for completion, then send it to the state for review for Chapter 313 compliance then, if approved, to consider the request from business considering establishing a Sulphur Springs facility.
The application will be reviewed by the superintendent as well as Powell Law Group for completeness, then submitted to Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts to determine whether the applicant meets all requirements for a Chapter 313 agreement. This does not obligate the district to approve the application, just to accept it and submit it to the Comptroller’s Office. If approved by the Comptroller, then the district would have the option to consider approving the application for appraised value limitation on qualified property from Ashoka Steel Mills LLC.
Sulphur Springs-Hopkins County Economic Development Director Roger Feagley, during the public forum at the beginning of Monday night’s regular board meeting, noted that the EDC and local officials have been working on a project they hope to bring to Sulphur Springs, one that has been dubbed Project Superman to this point. Sulphur Springs is in competition with the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma to get the project. This would be the company among two of the company’s first manufacturing facility in the US.
The company is looking to make a $265 million investment, which would create over 300 jobs, would be a boost to the local economy, the school board was told Monday night. Talent would be mostly local, with a few experts in from Italy and Germany to help during the construction period and potentially with training of technicians and engineers.
The Ashoka Steel Mill would be located in the center of the City of Sulphur Springs’ property which previously housed a coal mine. It would initially occupy about 250 acres, with a 150 acre expansion later, out of the total 4,857-acre former Thermo/Luminant mine property, officials were told Monday.
The proposed electric arc furnace steel mill would produce 350,000 tons of rebar annually. The facility, according to documentation in the application, would use an electric arc to heat metals instead of a blast furnace. The mill estimates 402,500 tons of scrap metal from local areas would be used to produce the rebar; the steel recycling, according to the application, would reduce carbon emissions. The scrap metal would be brought in mainly by rail, amounting to an estimated 8,000 railcars a year, and about 40 trucks.
One of the factors the deal depends on is Sulphur Springs ISD approving the Chapter 313 agreement, provided the application is approved by the Comptroller’s Office, according to Feagley. The business also is expected to ask for incentives from Hopkins County, the City of Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County Hospital District as well, which would also be determining factors in whether or not the business establishes a facility in Sulphur Springs.
A KE Andrews representative said, based on experience assisting other entities submitting the applications, while the state agency has 150 days to review the application, the typical turnaround time is about 90 days. SSISD authorized the superintendent to approve any request for an extension of the deadline for board action beyond the 150-day school board review period, provided additional time is needed. The cutoff deadline by which the state has determined no new Chapter 313 tax incentive agreements of this type may begin is Dec. 31, 2022. If approved by the school by that time, the Chapter 313 agreement should continue to be valid, trustees were told.
The appraised value limitation requested for Ashoka Steel Mill LLC would limit the amount property valued the business would have to pay in SSISD maintenance and operations taxes for 10 years. The minimum required qualified investment for project for SSISD to consider the application is $30 million. That’s the amount of appraised value limitation for which Ashoka Steel is applying.
Ashoka Steel Mill LLC, according to the application, is being developed in collaboration with Melwa group and Ashoka Capital Group. Melwa is an international conglomerate headquartered in Sri Lanka that operates three steel mills in Asia and Africa.
The company provided a $75,000 check to Sulphur Springs ISD to cover the application fee which covers costs associated with processing the application requesting in the limited tax valuation.
The company anticipates if the application is approved, it would then be presented again to SSISD Board of Trustees on or around Aug. 1, 2022 for consideration. Construction could then begin as early as September 2022, with Jan. 1, 2023 the beginning of the qualifying time and Jan. 1, 2025, the first year of the limitation. Commercial operations then are projected to begin by Dec. 31, 2024.
The trustees also each attested they had no conflict of interest with the application for appraised value limitation on qualified property for Ashoka Steel Mills LLC, in accordance with Chapter 313 of Texas Tax Code.