by Kyle Massey
Clean Line Energy Partners of Houston has agreed to buy Arkansas-made supplies for its huge transmission line construction project from manufacturing facilities in Malvern and West Memphis.
The Plains & Eastern Clean Line is a $2 billion-plus enterprise for delivering wind-generated power from the Oklahoma Panhandle to near Memphis, crossing 12 Arkansas counties. Clean Line Energy Partners signed a preferred supplier agreement with General Cable of Hot Spring County in 2011 to provide $130 million worth of conductor wire. That deal is expected to yield 135 direct jobs in Malvern and was praised by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission at the time.
Another deal is with Sediver, a multinational manufacturer based in France, which agreed to put an insulator factory in West Memphis to supply $60 million in components to Clean Line during construction. That facility, expected to be operational by early next year, will create 47 factory jobs and 52 related jobs in the area. Clean Line selected Sediver because of the reliability of its high-quality insulators, it says, but also because the company committed to manufacturing in Arkansas.
“We’ve made a concerted effort to maximize use of the supply chain locally,” Clean Line Partners VP Mario Hurtado said. “We committed to purchase all our insulators from Sediver, and they’re here in Arkansas because we asked them to come to Arkansas. We chose General Cable because of their manufacturing in Arkansas.”
René Tabouret, CEO of Sediver, a division of Seves Group, announced in June 2015 that the company would build a $10 million plant on 15 acres in the Mid-America Industrial Park.
Incentives for Sediver included a $340,000 grant from the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund, a planned cash rebate for creating new jobs and sales tax refunds for building materials and certain equipment.
The AEDC, however, sought to distinguish its support for Sediver and General Cable from the idea that it supports the Clean Line project. “AEDC has not provided any Quick Action funds (or any incentives) to the Clean Line project,” spokesman Scott Hardin said in an email to Arkansas Business. “There have been a couple of companies we’ve worked with that have announced they want to work with Clean Line in the future, but that’s our only connection to this project.”
Hardin said that the agency still sees opportunities for new jobs through the Clean Line project, but he noted changes in AEDC and state leadership since the statements of 2011. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson succeeded Democrat Mike Beebe in January 2015.
“We now have our own view of the project,” Hardin said, adding that while Sediver was interested in partnering with Clean Line, the West Memphis project “was going to proceed either way.”