Blytheville Firm Scraps Business Model, Leaving 30 Out of Work

A Blytheville company that recycled material from steel plants in Mississippi County has laid off its workforce of about 30 Tuesday while its business model is being altered.

Pizo Operating Co. was formed in 2007 to process electric arc furnace dust from the Nucor Hickman and Nucor Yamato steel plants in Mississippi County. Pizo converted the dust and other material into products used primarily in the metals industry.

“We’ve suspended operations … for a period of time while we assess some of the technical issues that we’ve been experiencing with the facility,” Nigel Morrison, Pizo president, told¬†¬†Thursday morning.

Morrison declined to say what the issues were. He also said he didn’t have a timetable for when the plant would reopen.

“We’re really looking at all our options,” he said.

In the meantime, Morrison said the company is helping find jobs for its employees who were laid off.

Clif Chitwood, president of the Great River Economic Development Foundation, said Pizo is modifying its business model.

“It was just not quite ready for the commercial application as they had hope,” he said. “I understand they are going to continue to make refinements. … It’s going back to the laboratory.”

Chitwood said he didn’t know when Pizo would reopen or if it would rehire its workers. Employees made about $18 an hour at Pizo, he said.

Pizo built the Blytheville plant in 2008 for $29 million. Pizo was created through a partnership between Nucor Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., and The Heritage Group of Indianapolis.

“The creation of Pizo means more high-quality jobs for northeast Arkansas, and also production of usable materials from waste, helping us better utilize our resources,” Gov. Mike Beebe said in a news release in 2007. “This is a great example of employing environmentally friendly ideas as an engine for economic development.”