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Simmons Prepared Foods held a dedication ceremony at the site where a chicken processing plant will eventually employ about 2,300 people.

Today’s ceremony, attended by Arkansas Economic Development Commission Director Mike Preston, Benton County Judge Barry Moehring, local mayors and about 80 other people, was held under rainy skies at the site that’s midway between the cities of Gentry and Decatur.

Todd Simmons, the CEO and vice chairman of Simmons Foods, holds one of the commemorative blocks that will be given to Benton County and the cities of Decatur and Gentry to show the company’s commitment to building a strong foundation in each of the communities.

“Benton County has been our home for nearly 70 years, and we are proud to build on that strong foundation and look forward to this new facility being a vital part of Benton County’s growth,” said Todd Simmons, the company’s CEO and vice chairman.

The company is investing $300 million into the plant, and it expects to create 1,500 new jobs. An additional 700 employees who work at a Simmons operation that’s about two miles north of the site will be relocated to the new facility that sits on 870 acres.

The plant won’t be fully operational until 2022, the company said.

“Arkansas is a great place to do business, and we are pleased that Simmons Prepared Foods made the decision to invest in this community and our state,” Preston said. “New jobs and additional opportunities will be available when the facility starts operating in 2019.”

Simmons Prepared Foods first announced the project in September 2017.

As part of today’s ceremony, Simmons lifted up one of the four heavy commemorative blocks created from materials that will be used in the building’s construction. The blocks will be given to the cities of Gentry and Decatur and to Benton County as a symbol of the company’s commitment to building on its strong foundation in each community in the coming years. The fourth block will remain at the site of the new chicken plant, the company said.

The company’s headquarters is in Siloam Springs, but its local operations extend into Missouri and Oklahoma. The company’s six processing plants produce 750 million pounds of finished product each year.

The company has remained involved with the Northwest Arkansas Council since Mark Simmons and a collection of other regional business leaders founded the nonprofit organization in 1990. Mark Simmons, the company’s chairman, served one year as the Council’s presiding co-chair from July 2013 to July 2014. Todd Simmons is a member of the Council’s Executive Committee.