Steel mill expansion expected to bring 500 new jobs to Baytown

Indian conglomerate JSW Group will spend $500 million to upgrade a steel plant it owns outside Houston, creating 500 new jobs, Gov. Greg Abbott and company officials announced Monday.

The state will chip in $3.4 million from Abbott’s deal-closing Texas Enterprise Fund, officials said at a news conference in Mumbai, India.

“We are proud to be connected with the largest steel producer in India,” Abbott said.

The Republican governor defended using taxpayer money to cinch the agreement.

Abbott said the subsidy only will flow to JSW if the company’s American steel subsidiary – just renamed as JSW USA – hits targets for pay and jobs created.

“We consider this to be good-paying jobs for the people of Baytown,” he said. “The average salary is about $65,000.”

The deal is a boon for Texas and the steel plant’s corporate parent, said Abbott and Sajjan Jindal, JSW’s chairman and managing director. It used to be called Jindal South West. In 2008, it bought U.S. Steel’s pipe- and plate-making mill in Baytown with an eye to upgrading the 700-acre plant so it could sell to the Texas energy industry, Jindal said.

But the 2008 financial crisis and recession, followed by dramatic ups and downs in the price of oil, put the plans on hold, he said.

“Melted and manufactured steel within that complex was always our dream,” he said at a press event at sleek, high-tech headquarters in Bandra, in the Mumbai Suburban District.

Reporters from Indian newspapers and TV packed the event  to ask Jindal questions about unrelated financial scandals dominating business news.

Jindal’s son Parth Jindal, who runs the Baytown operation, said its modernization with an electric arc furnace and an updated mill aligns with President Donald Trump’s push to have onshore steel production once again.

“We want to bring steel manufacturing back into the United States,” Parth Jindal said.