The Benton County Planning Board held a two-hour hearing on Simmons Foods’ plans for a new poultry plant in the Arkansas county, eventually tabling the discussion until its December 20 meeting.
Simmons Foods hopes to build a new processing facility between the Benton County towns of Decatur and Gentry. The project, if realized, will represent a $300 million investment, the creation of 1,500 new jobs and additional contracts with poultry growers. The plant will produce fresh and frozen chicken products for retail and restaurant customers, and will have the capacity to sell about 850 million pounds of poultry meat annually, once the facility reaches full production.
Simmons currently operates a plant in Decatur, but operations there are planned be moved to the new plant, once it is completed.
According to a report from the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the hearing attracted more than 50 people. The mayors of both Gentry and Decatur spoke favorably about the proposed plant, as ded a representative of the Gentry School District. However, several residents expressed worries about potential traffic increases, the plant’s potential impact on property values and environmental concerns.
Board member Ashley Tucker also asked for more information about matters such as the landscaping plan and fire protection.
The proposed plant is expected to be in operation 24 hours a day, six days a week, David Jackson, Simmons Foods’ president and chief operating officer for prepared foods, told the board
The company hopes to begin production at the proposed plant in 2019.
Simmons Foods, according to the WATTAgNet Top Poultry Companies Database, is the 18th largest broiler company in the United States, having produced 13.32 million pounds of ready-to-cook chicken on a weekly basis in 2016.
The company is also active in the pet food industry. Simmons Pet Food is a leader in North America’s private label and contract manufacturing space, producing wet and dry pet food and treats. The company produces both premium and value-focused offerings, supplying top brands and retailers with various formats, including cans, pouches and cups.