$300 million Simmons plant in Benton County begins to ramp up operations

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 5,326 views 

This aerial photo of the new Simmons Foods near Gentry in Benton County plant was taken Oct. 12.

Simmons Prepared Foods, a company of Siloam Springs-based Simmons Foods Inc. and Affiliates, announced Wednesday (Oct. 16) that operations have started to ramp up at its new $300 million plant in western Benton County. Poultry production started at the 315,000-square-foot plant the week of Sept. 30 and is expected to reach the first phase of full production in January 2020.

“These last few weeks have been a critical phase in preparing for the startup of operations here at Benton County,” said David Jackson, chief operating officer for Simmons Foods. “There has been a tremendous amount of work to get to this point, but there is still work to do.”

“We’re in the midst of a staged transition and a gradual ramp-up of production in a brand new environment. Every piece of equipment and each process is being assessed to ensure the highest safety and product quality. This is important work, and we’re pleased to be on track with the project timeline.”

About 900 employees will transition to the new plant from a Simmons poultry production plant in Decatur. The company expects to increase the number of employees at the new plant to 1,200 by January 2020, with the potential to reach up to 2,300 employees in 2022. The estimated annual payroll impact in 2022 is $86 million.

“One of the things we’re most proud of with this facility is the work environment it provides for our team members,” Jackson added. “The design, layout and finishes are the result of an intentional effort to make this a place where people are proud to come to work. This is a world-class facility.”

Exterior finish work, tree planting and landscaping at the plant will continue over the next few months. An opening celebration is expected to take place in spring 2020. The plant is located at the center of 870 acres east of Arkansas Highway 59 between Gentry and Decatur. Fayetteville-based C.R. Crawford Construction is the general contractor, and more than 1 million safe work hours can be attributed to the project.

Simmons Foods supplies poultry, pet and animal nutrition products to customers across the United States and more than 40 countries. The company has more than 7,000 employees.

In 2018, Simmons opened a Hiring Center in Siloam Springs to streamline the hiring process in the region. Prospective employees can apply, interview, and in some cases, complete the hiring process in one visit.