Simmons Foods dedicates new plant site
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.