BONNE TERRE – Missouri’s governor visited Bonne Terre Tuesday to commend a local company for creating new jobs.
Valley Minerals, LLC, which produces lime at its Bonne Terre Road site, is part of the MO Quality Jobs Program. The state program helps create jobs by targeted business projects. Salaries must be more than the average wage for the county in which the business resides.
For Valley Minerals, that means wages are 33 percent higher than the St. Francois County average of $25,769, said Tom Hillman, a managing member of FTL Capital LLC, the company that owns Valley Minerals. That salary range applies to the current 20 employees as well as the other 55 jobs slated to be created over the next five years.
To help Valley Minerals move ahead with its plans, the state of Missouri authorized $163,000 in Missouri Quality Jobs Program tax credits. The company will receive the tax credits after it creates a set number of jobs over the next five years.
Bonne Terre City Administrator Larry Barton and Mayor Lee Roy Calvert said the additional jobs would be a welcome addition to the city. Workers will buy gas and other items when driving to and from work, Barton theorized.
“Bonne Terre gets its income from sales tax, so this will be a help,” Barton said. “Hopefully it will help us with housing, as well. We have a lot of available property.”
Calvert believes that Valley Mineral’s growth and success could help attract new businesses to the city.
“What’s so encouraging is that we’re out here because there is a possibility of 55 jobs, when we could be out here hearing that it was closing,” Barton said.
Capital bought the company, which had gone bankrupt, in September after learning about the MO Quality Jobs program. Dolomitic quicklime has been produced at the site since 1927, although there have been several owners. Capital changed the name from Missouri Lime to Valley Minerals and set about improving the facility.
“There was a state of disrepair,” Hillman said. “We had to make a number of capital improvements.”
Capital hired back many former employees and hired new ones. In December, they began production again. During down time for maintenance, plant manager Ed King holds classes for employees to ensure they meet Mine Safety and Health Administration standards. Training also is designed to make their product in a competitive world market.
“In the past, they weren’t as disciplined on training and trying to produce consistently,” Hillman explained. “We’ve emphasized both.”
Valley Minerals is the closest supplier of lime to NUCOR Yamato Steel, which is a division of the largest producer of steel in the United States and located in Blytheville, Ark.
“Lime is a cost-effective way to remove damaging minerals and other impurities that weaken the integrity of the steel during the production process,” Nixon said. “The product made here is a necessary component for the refining of high quality steel and it has to be a very, very competitive product.”
The plan for additional workers is based on the expectation that demand for steel will increase. Nixon said one example of the need is the automobile industry.
“Before the recession, we sold about 17 million cars a year in this country, and during the recession about 10.3 million,” he said. “We’ve invested in autos because we know (the industry) is coming back. You can see it.”
Nixon said employment numbers are improving in Missouri. After “tough job losses in 8 and 9,” there was a net job gain in 2010, he said. In addition, exports from Missouri increased 35 percent last year and are up an additional 18 percent during the first quarter of this year.
Paula Barr is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 172 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.