BENTON COUNTY, Ark. – Simmons Prepared Foods Inc., a Siloam Springs Arkansas-based poultry company, announced on Oct. 16 that operations are starting to ramp up as scheduled at its new $300 million chicken facility in northwestern Arkansas, between Decatur and Gentry.

During the week of Sept. 30, the 315,000-sq.-ft plant began on a small scale with a steady increase over the next few months. The first phase of full production should be ready by January 2020, according to the company.

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

Around 900 employees will move to the new plant from a Simmons poultry production facility in Decatur. The company plans to increase staffing at the new plant to 1,200 team members by January 2020. Simmons said there is a potential to reach up to 2,300 employees at the plant by 2022.

“We’re in the midst of a staged transition and a gradual ramp up of production in a brand new environment,” Jackson said. “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.”

Simmons opened a hiring center last year in Siloam Springs where prospective team members can apply, interview, and in some cases, complete the hiring process in a single visit.

Exterior finish work, tree planting and landscaping at the Benton County facility will continue over the next few months. An opening celebration event is planned for spring 2020.