$300 million Simmons Foods plant takes shape south of Decatur

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 8,952 views 

An aerial photo captured by a drone shows the construction of a 315,000-square-foot building that will be Simmons Foods’ new poultry processing facility, south of Decatur, along Arkansas Highway 59. It should open by the end of this year. Photo courtesy Simmons Foods.

Siloam Springs-based poultry producer Simmons Foods Inc. and Affiliates plans to open a 315,000-square-foot chicken processing plant by the end of this year as construction on the $300 million plant is expected to continue through 2022.

“As we head into the final stretch of this substantial construction project, we are pleased to be on schedule and see our vision for a state-of-the-art production facility take shape,” said David Jackson, chief operating officer.

Fayetteville-based C.R. Crawford Construction is the general contractor, and the majority of the exterior concrete structure and dirt work have been completed. Soon, new processing equipment will arrive for installation, and work on interior spaces will begin, with new designs for break rooms and offices, said Donny Epp, Simmons Foods’ senior director of communications. Landscape work, tree planting and exterior paving have begun, and the Arkansas Department of Transportation recently started work to widen Highway 59 to allow for a southbound turn lane.

The plant will have an annual processing capacity of nearly 820 million pounds of poultry and will increase the company’s capacity to process live birds by 28%, or 300 million pounds, after the operations of an existing plant in Decatur are moved to the new plant. Some teams will start to transition to their new workplace as early as October and November, Epp said.

The new plant will allow for an additional 1,500 jobs for a total of 2,300 jobs when fully operational in 2022. Simmons has started to hire for positions required for startup of the plant and recently opened the Simmons Hiring Center in Siloam Springs. The center has had more than 1,000 applicants, Epp said. Available jobs range from management to production to administrative roles. Hourly pay for workers at the existing plant in Decatur range between $13.60 and $24.75, and more than half earn at least $16 per hour. The new plant also will require more than 160 salaried positions, he said.

Simmons announced in 2017 plans to build the new plant.