PINE BLUFF — A more than $3 billion facility to covert natural gas to diesel fuel is being considered for Jefferson County, according to the Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County.

PINE BLUFF — A more than $3 billion facility to covert natural gas to diesel fuel is being considered for Jefferson County, according to the Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County.


At a public meeting Tuesday morning, Lou Ann Nisbett, president and chief executive officer of the Alliance, said Energy Security Partners plans to build and operate the facility and has selected a site near the bioplex and NCTR as a possible location.


Nisbett said the project would be the biggest economic development project in Arkansas ever and "was like a 1,000 piece puzzle."


"The borders are complete and now we can begin to see the big picture," she said.


Nisbett said the project would generate 2,500 construction jobs and, when completed, 225 full-time primary jobs paying an average of $40 per hour.


"We’re saying Jefferson County, Arkansas, is open for business," she said.


Roger Williams, president and CEO of Energy Security Partners, said the company has spent more than $2 million in research on the project, and within 18 months, plans to spend more than $1 billion in equipment, which will have to be shipped by barge and off-loaded at the site.


"It’s a big project and a big vision," Williams said. "It will be five years before we begin commercial operation."


Williams said the company will spend 24 months on design preparation and site preparation


"When we decide to file the permits, we will be fully committed to a home here in Jefferson County," he said. "Today, working together, we can make it happen.


"We’ve 98 percent decided where we are going to be," he said.


He said when asked why do it when oil prices are so low, Williams said experts believe oil prices are going to increase.


"Gas-to-liquid is commercially viable," he said.


This would be the first gas-to-liquid plant in the United States, and Williams said the company plans to "bring foreign technology back to the United States."


"The center of GTL (gas-to-liquid) technology will be here in central Arkansas," he said. "We have a dream we want to make a reality."


Earlier Tuesday, the Economic Development Corp. of Jefferson County, the group that administers the three-eights cent sales tax approved by county voters, approved resolutions offering Energy Security Partners incentives of $3.925 million to help purchase land and conduct site preparation.


George Makris, chairman of the Economic Development Corp., also known as the tax board, said the group looked at a number of ways to provide incentives and decided that buying the land where the plant would be built was the best option. The tax board would then lease the land back to the company.


Both Williams and Nisbett said the proposed site is perfect for the company’s needs because it offers access to highways, to a rail line, an existing natural gas line and to the river, and the area is not in a flood plain.


Makris did not vote on the resolutions offering incentives to the company because he said he was an investor in the project. Scott McGeorge represented the tax board in the process.


Mike Preston, the director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said that while the plant may be located in Jefferson County, "it’s implications will be felt all over the United States."


Jefferson County Judge Dutch King said that while the University of Arkansas (at Fayetteville) and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff are lucky if they can sign five, five-star recruits, the announcement of the possible industry is "like signing a whole roster of five-star recruits."


"Wow," said Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth. "Thank you for dreaming big. This is huge for Jefferson County and Pine Bluff."


White Hall Mayor Noel Foster, who is also a member of the tax board, said "This is larger than I ever fathomed."


"When you think about the construction jobs, the permanent jobs and the secondary jobs," Foster said, "we appreciate the confidence you have shown in our area."


Earlier, during the meeting of the tax board, Foster said, "the key thing for us is to be patient."


According to the company’s website, the management team includes retired Army General Wesley Clark, and Rodney Slater, who was secretary of transportation in the Clinton administration.