PRAIRIE GROVE – An industry in Prairie Grove has tripled its business in the past eight years and is planning to build a new 40,000 square foot building to meet its capacity needs and prepare for the future.
The Prairie Grove Planning Commission approved a large-scale development plan for PolyTech Plastic Molding & Extrusion during its July 15th meeting.
Owner Jim Benton said PolyTech’s business is “exploding” and the company is busier than ever.
“We have exceeded our capacity,” Benton said last week, predicting the company will grow another 20% by the end of 2022.
PolyTech has expanded its presence over the past two years. The company bought Tyson Foods’ former hatchery building in Lincoln in 2019 and opened that building as a new distribution center in January 2020. It also uses a warehouse in Siloam Springs to receive raw materials.
PolyTech’s latest addition will be a standalone building adjacent to its current facility, a 65,000 square foot building at 126 N. Industrial Road in Prairie Grove.
Benton said the company hopes to break the ground in mid-August and the building should be completed in about seven to eight months. The plan is to use local suppliers and subcontractors as much as possible for the construction project, he said.
“We will only leave the area if we have to,” said Benton.
Benton said this building will house 18-20 new molding machines and will house a 15-ton crane and a 5-ton crane, as well as heavier machines for making larger parts.
Benton said a lot of work was put into the building design. The facility will have planned workplaces. All utility lines are built into the floor so that wiring is done from the floor, not from above. Troughs in the bottom are used for chilled water that is used by the machines.
“This will all create a very clean environment,” he said. “It will be a lot safer and more efficient.”
The building will also have a lobby, conference room, several offices and an observation mezzanine so that visitors can observe the ongoing production in the plant.
PolyTech employs around 100 people and, according to Benton, is expecting 150 to 170 employees in the next two years. This includes hiring more employees in the current facilities and adding another 20-25 employees for the new building.
The company receives raw materials from its warehouse in Siloam Springs, which are transported to the Prairie Grove facility for production. Benton said about five truckloads of finished products are brought to the Lincoln distribution center every day.
Today PolyTech has 75 customers and produces around 1,500 parts for these customers. It ships products to customers in all 50 states, Canada, Mexico, and Europe. As an example, Benton said the company makes the mainstay plate for Walmart, shipping 30,000 plates a week to Walmart stores in all 50 states.
The long-term plan is to leave Siloam Springs and build a new 60,000 square foot facility on the Lincoln property.
Like many companies, PolyTech has a labor shortage.
“We are experiencing very real labor inflation due to the federal stimulus package,” he said. “It took 50 million people out of the job market.”
PolyTech is actively recruiting and has increased its starting wage from $ 11 an hour to $ 14.50 an hour, with a $ 1 margin for certain shifts. The company works 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It also offers other benefits and bonuses to employees. The employees work three days a week in 12-hour shifts and have four days off.
Benton said the Covid-19 pandemic made many customers realize how fragile the supply chain can be when parts are not available to make products.
“We can’t build cars unless we have access to overseas supplies,” said Benton.
Now companies are relocating their products and looking for ways to bring manufacturing back to the United States instead of being so dependent on foreign products, he said.
LYNN KUTTER MANAGING DIRECTOR Roy Vanwolfe from PolyTech Plastic Molding & Extrusion in Prairie Grove works with a machine that makes a cardboard carrier for Rheem air conditioning systems.