PolyTech plans more jobs, space

Company expects continued growth

LYNN KUTTER ENTERPRISE-LEADER Roy Vanwolfe with PolyTech Plastic Molding & Extrusion in Prairie Grove is working with a machine that produces a carton support for Rheem air conditioners.

PRAIRIE GROVE — One industry in Prairie Grove has tripled its business in the past eight years and plans to build a 40,000-square-foot expansion to meet its capacity needs and prepare for the future.

PolyTech Plastic Molding & Extrusion owner Jim Benton said his business is exploding.

“We’ve outstripped our capacity,” Benton said recently, predicting the company will grow in business another 20% by the end of 2022.

PolyTech has expanded its footprint the past two years. It purchased the former Tyson Foods hatchery building in Lincoln in 2019 and opened that structure as its new distribution center in January 2020. It also is using a warehouse in Siloam Springs to receive raw materials.

PolyTech employs about 100 people and expects to grow to 150 to 170 employees over the next two years, according to Benton. This includes hiring more employees at the current facilities and adding another 20 to 25 employees for the new building.

PolyTech’s expansion will be a standalone building next to its 65,000-square-foot building at 126 N. Industrial Road in Prairie Grove.

Benton said the company hopes to break ground in mid-August, and the building should be finished in about seven to eight months. The plan is to use local supplies and subcontractors as much as possible for the project, he said.

“We’ll only go out of the area if we have to,” he said.

Benton said the new building will house 18 to 20 molding machines and accommodate a 15-ton crane and a 5-ton crane and heavier machines to manufacture larger parts.

Benton said a lot of work has gone into the building design. The facility will have planned work stations. All utilities will be incorporated into the floor, so that wiring will come from the ground level, not above. T

roughs in the ground will be used for chilled water used by the machines.

“That will all make a very clean environment,” he said. “It will be much safer and more efficient.”

The building also will have a lobby, conference room, several offices and an observation mezzanine for visitors to watch the production in the plant.

The company receives raw materials at its Siloam Springs warehouse and these are transported to the Prairie Grove plant for production. Benton said about five truckloads of finished products are taken to the distribution center in Lincoln every day.

PolyTech produces about 1,500 parts for 75 customers. It ships out products to all 50 states, Canada, Mexico and Europe. As an example, Benton said, the company produces the Mainstay platter for Walmart and ships 30,000 platters per week to Walmart stores nationwide.

Like many businesses, PolyTech has a labor shortage. The company has raised its beginning pay from $11 per hour to $14.50 per hour, with a $1 deferential for certain shifts.

The company operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It also offers other benefits and bonuses to employees. Employees work three days a week in 12-hour shifts and are off four days.

Benton said the covid-19 pandemic caused many customers to realize how fragile the supply chain can be when parts became unavailable to manufacture products.

“We can’t build cars unless we have access to supplies overseas,” Benton said.

Companies are reshoring their products and are looking for ways to bring production back to the United States, instead of depending so much on foreign products, he said.

Lynn Kutter can be reached by email at [email protected] .