Steve Carter, president, Knight Hawk Coal LLC

Steve Carter, Knight Hawk Coal LLC

WINNER – Industrial Manufacturing and Mining

Steve Carter


Knight Hawk Coal LLC

When Steve Carter announced in 1997 that he was creating a coal mining company in southern Illinois, the reaction was a mix of hope and skepticism. At the time, Illinois’ mining industry had all but been gutted with employment dropping 64 percent in the 1990s. However, he knew that the big companies that had abandoned the region left behind enough coal, pent-up demand and good people to make it work.

In creating Knight Hawk Coal, Carter, who is president, played an important role in the revitalization of the coal industry in Illinois. During the 1990s, many coal consumers abandoned Illinois coal for lower sulfur coal found in the Appalachians as well as in the Power River Basin (PRB) in Wyoming. With the onset of advanced scrubbing technology, Carter believed Illinois Basin coal could be a lower-cost alternative to Appalachian coal and could also provide benefits over PRB coal through significantly lower freight costs given Illinois’ central proximity.

Through his leadership, Carter has built Knight Hawk Coal from a fledgling operation with one mine and 17 employees to a very successful company with six mines and nearly 400 employees. He understands that effective leadership involves making difficult decisions. He also understands that he may not always know the answer or have the best ideas, so he invites all employees to share views on various aspects of the business.

Carter believes that a collaborative culture will promote innovative thinking, which will be key to the company’s future success. Through his efforts, coal has made a comeback in Illinois, and with the help of his team, he is working each day to ensure that success is sustained.

HOW TO REACH: Knight Hawk Coal LLC,