The new $300 million Simmons Foods poultry production plant will bring more than jobs to the western Benton county area.  Decatur School Superintendent Steven Watkins said he expects to see his district grow as more workers come on board at the plant.  “People will move in, and businesses and shopping will follow,” he said.  “The plant will be a cornerstone for growth in western Benton County.”

Production at the plant began on a small scale the week of September 30 and will steadily increase to reach the first phase of full production in January, according to a Simmons press release.

The plant is designed to harvest live chickens from around 300 independent family farmers to produce fresh and frozen chicken products,” said Donny Epp, Simmons senior director of communications.  It will replace the company’s processing facility in Decatur, he said.

Approximately 900 employees will transition from the Decatur plant, according to the company.  The company plans to increase staffing to 1,200 employees in January with a potential of reaching 2,300 employees by 2020.

The processing facility will also increase the need for live chickens by 28 percent, which will increase the number of chicken houses, Epp said.  Most of the farm growth will be in Arkansas Oklahoma and Missouri.  The transition will not impact operations at the Decatur Dry Pet Food facility, feed mill, offices or hatchery on Arkansas 59.

More homes are planned as at least eight subdivisions are in the works.  The largest one will have 246 homes when finished in the next few years, said building inspector Mark Smithson.  Another subdivision will have 117 homes.