POINT PLEASANT — On Wednesday, representatives with Nucor Corporation, which is planning a state-of-the-art (steel) sheet mill in Apple Grove estimated to cost $2.7 billion, introduced themselves with a Mason County Schools building as a backdrop.
Prior to revealing the donation, a gathering of company and local officials, media and other community members, was held outside of Point Pleasant Jr./Sr. High School with John Musgrave, executive director Mason County Economic Development Authority, giving some opening remarks. As previously reported, a larger gathering had been planned inside the Wedge Auditorium at PPJ/SHS on Wednesday afternoon with Gov. Justice as an expected speaker, among other dignitaries, but that event was canceled following the announcement of the governor’s COVID-19 diagnosis late Tuesday night.
“This company is so oriented to education and community and being part of the fabric of a community,” Musgrave said. “They want to go ahead and do just a small part here this afternoon, of course, it deals with education. And this company is strong in education.”
Musgrave said when he first spoke with Nucor, they spoke about how education relates to community.
“I said, ‘well, then we want to have something to welcome you to Mason County,’” Musgrave said. “And they said, ‘Well, we want to have something to welcome the Mason Countians into the families of Nucor.”
“What a great welcome, it is so good to be here on behalf of Nucor. I just want to tell you how excited we are,” said Rex Query, Nucor executive vice president. “This has been a lengthy process, as you might imagine. This is the single largest capital investment in Nucor’s history, just shy of $3 billion, it’s a commitment. It’s a commitment to our growth, but it’s a commitment to this community.”
Query spoke on his experience with Nucor and the money the company has invested in growth and opportunity. He spoke on the sheet mill being brought to Apple Grove and the work of the company, along with the possibility of expansion in the future.
“We look to see more opportunity, we see more opportunity for growth beyond this original investment,” Query said. “So, we are excited for that reason.”
Query introduced John Farris, vice president and general manager, who will head up the Apple Grove facility.
“I can’t wait to get to know you in this community and in this region,” Farris said. “We’re looking forward to moving to West Virginia.”
Farris spoke on his time with Nucor and the current Kentucky plant he oversees, the scholarship Nucor offers to teammates and family and his excitement of coming to West Virginia.
Farris then brought Mason County School Superintendent Keith Burdette, and School Board President Dale Shobe and Query up to the podium. Nucor then presented Burdette and Shobe with a $1 million donation to Mason County Schools.
“You’ll have to give me a moment to catch my breath. Wow,” Burdette said. “On behalf of [the] Mason County Board of Education, who is here and our staff, but most importantly the students, express my appreciation.”
Burdette welcomed Nucor to Mason County.
“We want to welcome you to Mason County, you’re going to find this is a wonderful place. It is filled with wonderful people,” Burdette said. “We are thrilled to have you here and we’re very excited about the opportunities, relationships, collaboration [and] so many different ventures.”
Burdette said while the county has heard Nucor is dedicated to education, he could not think of a better testament to that commitment.
The $1 million donation was a surprise to Burdette and the board.
“This company is unreal,” Burdette said. “I had no idea what we were going to be [getting.] I had heard that we might be relieving a gift. I had no idea what to expect. Zero.”
It takes approximately $54 million per year to cover the Mason County School budget, according to Gary Hendrix, treasurer.
The Mason County Board of Education held a special meeting earlier Wednesday afternoon to “consider the adoption [of] a resolution approving and authorizing the execution of a payment in lieu of tax agreement with an economic development prospect to incentivize location in Mason County.” As previously reported, along with Board members, Mason County Commissioners met separately on Wednesday, finalizing and approving the details of a Payment In Lieu of Tax (PILOT) agreement, which will include PILOT payments to the county from Nucor.
In regards to the Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Burdette and Board Members Shobe, Rhonda Tennant, Jared Billings, Meagan Bonecutter and Ashley Cossin were all present.
The board members moved into executive session with John Stump, partner with Steptoe and Johnson, to discuss details involving the resolution as it related to Nucor Corporation.
After resuming public session, the motion was approved by the board, 5-0.
After the donation, Burdette and Hendrix spoke to Ohio Valley Publishing on the PILOT agreement and what that means for the schools.
“Mason County Schools is going to be a beneficiary,” Burdette said. “We’re really not out anything, this will not substantially affect the monies that’ll come to the Mason County Schools.”
Hendrix said the Mason County Commission will hold the PILOT money and be dispensed to use in the school system. He said the PILOT agreement does not affect the funds regularly dispensed to the school district.
Burdette said once the Board saw the PILOT agreement and looked at all of the work done on all levels from the governor’s office down, everyone was in agreement to support the arrangement.
Hendrix said the big picture is the future.
“The bigger picture, is the opportunity for growth,” Hendrix said. “Probably more housing or smaller businesses; if you think down the road three, four, five years, initially it’s contractors and construction but once they get rolling, people are going to have to come from somewhere. Why not build a house here, buy some property here.”
Burdette said this provides opportunities for current and future students.
“There’ll be opportunities for students with the county,” Burdette said. “There are a lot of times I think, that we teach, we try to tell students about jobs and things like that. But yet, if it’s not close enough to them, they wonder is this something that’s really possible for me, could it ever really happen. But now I think they can look down the road and there it is.”
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Brittany Hively is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @britthively; reach her at (740) 446-2342 ext 2555.