A French overhead line insulation technology company will open a manufacturing plant in West Memphis to serve the planned Plains & Eastern Clean Line transmission line project, the companies said on Monday.
Sediver, a division of Seves Group, which makes electric insulation and glass blocks, will employ about 70 people when operations begin in late 2016, the company’s CEO Rene Tabouret said in a news release.
"We are excited to be back in the United States and to be able to contribute to cutting edge renewable energy infrastructure projects like the Plains & Eastern Clean Line," Tabouret said.
He said the new plant would serve the Clean Line project, as well as "other American utilities, and the global transmission and distribution industry."
The Clean Line project is estimated to cost about $2 billion and stretch about 720 miles, transporting about 4,000 megawatts of wind energy from Oklahoma to customers in Tennessee and Arkansas.
Clean Line is still awaiting the end of a public comment period on a draft Environmental Impact Statement by the U.S. Department of Energy. That comment period will wrap up later this week and the company expects the department will provide a final route for the line by the fourth quarter of this year.
In a phone interview, Tabouret said the Clean Line project would be a "very substantial order for us" and that there wouldn't be the same "time pressure" to open the plant without it receiving necessary regulatory approvals.
Michael Skelly, the president of Clean Line, said he was "thrilled" that Sediver would open a plant in the state.
"This agreement furthers our commitment to purchase as many of the needed materials and services as possible from local companies in the Plains & Eastern Clean Line project area," Skelly said in a news release. "This project will propel Arkansas forward by bringing new manufacturing and construction jobs and a low-cost renewable energy to the Natural State for years to come."
Mayor William Johnson of West Memphis said in the news release that he was pleased Sediver had chosen the city for the plant.
"We appreciate the high-wage jobs this project will bring to our city," Johnson said. "And as the utility industry ages, replacing existing insulators with new, highly efficient ones is a large and growing market and I am excited that West Memphis will be at the center of the effort."
In the interview, Tabouret said that the company had looked at Arkansas as a possible site for a manufacturing plant on the suggestion of Clean Line. He said that two years ago, the state "wasn’t a prime location," but that there have since been "positive and constructive" meetings between Sediver and the Arkansas Department of Economic Development and the city of West Memphis.
Clean Line said it has also secured an agreement with General Cable of Malvern to build the project's conductor at its Arkansas plant.