Sim­mons Foods ded­i­cates new plant site

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Randy Moll rmoll@nwadg.com

GEN­TRY — Lo­cal and state of­fi­cials and nu­mer­ous other busi­ness rep­re­sen­ta­tives at­tended a cer­e­mony Wed­nes­day morn­ing to ded­i­cate the site of new Sim­mons poul­try pro­cess­ing plant now un­der con­struc­tion along Ar­kan­sas High­way 59 between Gen­try and De­catur. The group gath­ered un­der a large tent and um­brel­las due to light rains fall­ing in the area.

Af­ter an in­tro­duc­tion and wel­come by Veron­ica Hand­cock, hu­man re­sources man­ager for the De­catur fa­cil­ity, Nick Braschler, chap­lain for Sim­mons Foods, led the group in prayer for God’s bless­ing upon Sim­mons Foods and the new fa­cil­ity and for His care and pro­tec­tion for work­ers at the fa­cil­ity.

Mike Pre­ston, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ar­kan­sas Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Com­mis­sion, apol­o­gized for Gov. Asa Hutchin­son’s ab­sence due to

a commitment else­where and praised Sim­mons Foods and com­pli­mented the ex­pan­sion through the new fa­cil­ity.

Barry Moehring, Ben­ton County Judge, spoke of the bless­ings which have been show­ered upon the county and said some ar­eas of Ben­ton County had been more blessed than oth­ers in terms of eco­nomic devel­op­ment and op­por­tu­ni­ties. He said the new Sim­mons plant will be a boon for west­ern Ben­ton County, bring­ing with it new, good-pay­ing jobs and eco­nomic growth for the re­gion. He said businesses in the east­ern part of the county will now have to com­pete for work­ers with west­ern Ben­ton County.

Todd Sim­mons, CEO and vice chair­man for Sim­mons Foods, em­pha­sized the company’s fo­cus on peo­ple and mak­ing Sim­mons a good company for its em­ploy­ees as well as be­ing a ma­jor food sup­plier of qual­ity food for peo­ple in the re­gion and far be­yond. He spoke of the company’s his­tory in De­catur and how the new plant was be­ing de­signed to make it a good and safe place for its em­ploy­ees to work and have a ca­reer.

Sim­mons said he hoped

that peo­ple who have worked nu­mer­ous jobs would find Sim­mons Foods to be the kind of company where they can build their ca­reers. Sim­mons pre­sented mon­u­ments made from ma­te­ri­als at the new site to Judge Moehring and to Kevin John­ston and Bob Tharp, may­ors of Gen­try and De­catur, re­spec­tively, for their as­sis­tance and co­op­er­a­tion with Sim­mons to make the new plant pos­si­ble. The stone mon­u­ments in­cluded the words “Build­ing on a Strong Foun­da­tion” and named Ben­ton County, Sim­mons Foods, De­catur and Gen­try as part­ners on the bot­tom of the mon­u­ment.

As a re­sult of the new plant, De­catur will be able to ex­pand its waste­water treat­ment plant to pro­vide sewer ser­vice to Sim­mons and at a lower cost to its res­i­dents. Gen­try will be able to ex­pand its wa­ter sys­tem and build a new wa­ter stor­age tank which will serve both Sim­mons and the east­ern part of Gen­try’s wa­ter ser­vice area — im­prove­ments the city was al­ready re­quired to make and which were in plan­ning stages when Sim­mons an­nounced its plans for the new fa­cil­ity.

The new plant is ex­pected to bring with it a growth in area hous­ing, stu­dent num­bers in schools and

eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties for other area businesses and services.

Ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion pre­sented about the new op­er­a­tion, Sim­mons Pre­pared Foods’ new poul­try pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity will produce fresh and frozen pre­pared chicken prod­ucts, and the de­sign will feature modern pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties and con­tem­po­rary of­fice space sup­ported with best-in-class en­vi­ron­men­tal tech­nolo­gies. The op­er­a­tion will em­ploy ap­prox­i­mately 2,300 peo­ple (at full ca­pac­ity) and con­tract with lo­cal farm­ers.

The new pro­cess­ing plant is be­ing built on the east side of Ar­kan­sas High­way 59, just south ofY-City Road, between De­catur and Gen­try. It is pro­jected to start up in 2019 and reach full ca­pac­ity in 2022.

Sim­mons pur­chased ap­prox­i­mately 870 acres of land for the new fa­cil­ity, which will be ap­prox­i­mately 315,000-plus square feet in size, in­clud­ing 40,000 square feet of con­tem­po­rary of­fice space. Sim­mons es­ti­mated a $300 mil­lion in­vest­ment to build the new fa­cil­ity.

The es­ti­mated an­nual out­put is more than 800 mil­lion pounds of poul­try at full ca­pac­ity. Sim­mons es­ti­mates the new plant will cre­ate more than 1,500 new full-time jobs at full ca­pac­ity in 2022.

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