Steel mill announces hire: Former city commissioner will coordinate govt. relations - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Steel mill announces hire: Former city commissioner will coordinate govt. relations

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Posted: Tuesday, December 3, 2019 7:00 pm

Brownsville Investor Group (BIG) LLC, the development arm of Big River Steel, an Arkansas-based steel maker eyeing the Port of Brownsville for a $1.6 billion steel mill, has announced the hiring of Deborah Portillo as executive vice president of economic development.

Portillo will be charged with leading BIG’s efforts to accelerate BRS’s development of a new, high-tech steel production facility in the southern United States. In April 2018, BRS signed a lease option with the Brownsville Navigation District for 800 acres on the Brownsville Ship Channel and S.H. 48.

In October, BRS CEO David Stickler said the company was “aggressively ramping up efforts for a second flat-rolled mill in Brownsville” and had founded BIG for that purpose. BRS’s first mill, in Osceola, Ark., began operations in early 2017. Also in October, Stickler said Brownsville is the “preferred site” but not the only site BRS is considering. U.S. Steel recently acquired a 49.9 percent ownership stake in BRS and said it intends to buy the remainder of the company within the next four years.

BIG will coordinate BRS’s “interactions with various state, regional and local government entities, and structure recruitment and training programs to be implemented by higher education institutions near the selected site, according to the company’s Dec. 3 announcement.

BIG President Ahab Garas said Portillo will bring a wealth of experience when she starts with the organization on Jan. 1.

“Our expectation is that we will move through the first half of 2020 with a focus on finalizing our site selection process and begin our environmental permit work in earnest shortly thereafter,” Garas said.

Portillo served as a Brownsville city commissioner for one four-year term, from 2013 to 2017, and most recently as a senior policy advisor in Washington D.C. to U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela,D-Brownsville.

sclark@brownsvilleherald.com

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