In pursuing plans for a natural gas-to-liquid fuel production facility, Energy Security Partners of Little Rock spent more than a year securing the land for its likely plant site in northern Jefferson County.
William Carpenter, ESP’s senior vice president for corporate development, entered into a real estate offer-and-acceptance contract for one parcel of the site, near the National Center for Toxicological Research, on Feb. 17, 2015. That document listed Carpenter as the authorized agent for Jackson Creek Investments LLC, and the seller as Sortay Investments LLC, represented at the signing by Bobby Taylor.
Jackson Creek Investments is a wholly owned subsidiary of Energy Security Partners, ESP officials said, adding that the overall land deal involved “multiple parcels owned by three different landowners.”
The other sellers listed in offer-and-acceptance documents dated in May and June 2015 were Bennie J. McCoy as trustee of the Bennie & Mary Ann McCoy Living Trust, and Robert L. Hixson Jr. and Hixson Properties LLC.
All of the offer-and-acceptance agreements were later assigned by Jackson Creek Investments to the Economic Development Corp. of Jefferson County, which paid $2.8 million for a total of just under 1,100 acres on March 30, 2016. At the same time, the Economic Development Corp. agreed to lease the land to ESP for $10 a year over a term of 10 years.
The money for the purchase was part of a $3.9 million incentive package approved by the development group in February. The package is funded through the county’s three-eighths-cent sales tax for economic development.
George Makris, chairman of the Economic Development Corp. and CEO of Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff, confirmed that representatives of ESP had sought out the land. “The negotiations for the land were originally managed by William Carpenter or other representatives from ESP or an affiliate,” Makris wrote in an email.
“The purchase contracts were assigned to the EDC and we conducted our own diligence on each parcel,” Makris wrote. “The EDC purchased the land directly from the land owner and not from ESP or any related party. Then the EDC leased the land to ESP.”