Gen. Wesley Clark, the retired four-star general from Little Rock and a former candidate for president, is looking for a few good millions.
$80 million, to be precise, for a planned $3.5 billion plant to turn natural gas into high-grade liquid fuel in Jefferson County.
“I need $80 million in investment to finish the long lead-time procurement and finish the final architectural engineering” on the project, he said, describing an eight-year march toward what would be the largest economic development project in Arkansas history.
Clark, a Vietnam War hero who led American forces in Europe shielding ethnic Albanians from ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in 1999, is a director for Energy Security Partners, the Little Rock company putting together the GTL project. He gave the Little Rock Rotary Club an update Tuesday in a virtual meeting.
“All permitting is done except the water permit,” Clark said. “We have a lot of money in the plant right now, and we have all the big investment lined up after the financial engineering’s done.”
“So if you all have any ideas on people I should be talking to …,” Clark added, his voice trailing off. “I’d love to have Stephens [Inc.] involved. The plant will be a good thing for Arkansas, bring a lot of jobs, a lot of construction, especially in the Pine Bluff area where they need that development.”
Arkansas Investors Called Shy
Clark outlined CEO Roger Williams’ plan to use Arkansas natural gas as feedstock to produce a far cleaner liquid fuel. “It’s a synthetic diesel fuel, so it doesn’t have any particulates and it’s about 40% less polluting than regular diesel,” Clark said. “So I figure it’ll be the last liquid fuel on the market.”
Clark, who spoke on the topic of leadership gleaned in 38 years of Army command, said potential Arkansas investors have shied away. “One guy who we would have liked to invest said, ‘You know, I just don’t know anything about that.’ He knew about telephones and other things; I just don’t know about that. And that’s the way people are with their money. But this is a worldwide effort, and we’re going to get it done.”
Clark, who took four bullets from a Viet Cong AK-47 more than 50 years ago, said the keys to successful leadership are service, trust, responsibility, strategy and execution. When asked what traits are missing today in America’s leaders, his response was pointed.
“Well, in the top leader in this country in the top elected position,” he said, “service, trust, responsibility, strategy and execution are missing. That’s my honest opinion.”