Archive for Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Company looking at highway property

Firm would distribute, package black powder

October 23, 2002

A company that distributes black powder and smokeless propellants for sport shooting wants to move its distribution center to a site just east of Tonganoxie.

Hodgdon Powder Company has a contract to purchase a 160-acre tract on the north side of U.S. Highway 24-40, east of 198th Street. The land, which is about two miles east of Tonganoxie, currently is owned by the Lois M. Windett Trust of Florissant, Mo.

Purchase of the property is contingent on the family-owned company obtaining approval from the county for a special-use permit. The Leavenworth County Planning Commission will consider the issue at its Nov. 13 meeting.

Currently, the company's distribution center where it stores and packages materials is in Shawnee, according to Doug Delsemme, vice president and general counsel at Hodgdon. The Tonganoxie center would replace the Shawnee center, Delsemme said.

"We're looking to the future to replace the site eventually because it's a family-owned business and the owners feel that in time the land use at the present location will probably be more suitable for development than for commercial use," he said.

At the Tonganoxie site, the company would construct several buildings, which would be situated some distance from one another.

Delsemme said he and other company officials are eager to talk with neighbors about the business before the planning commission meeting.

"We'd like to give them a certain comfort level as to what this is," he said. "We've been around for a long time with a really good safety record."

He addressed concerns about the possibility of fire.

"Certainly that is a possibility," he said, "but not a probability. It is unlikely because of the way the product is packaged and stored. It is a flammable solid, and if it were ignited by a heat source, such as a flame, it would burn.

"But it would not explode."

The company does not store or ship what Delsemme called "high explosives," such as dynamite. The smokeless propellants are used by target shooters and trap and skeet shooters with shotguns.

"They shoot a lot of rounds and reload their own ammunition," he said.

County officials plan to tour Hodgdon's distribution center in Shawnee on Friday, according to Linda Bohnsack of the Leavenworth County planning department.

She said the company's plans call for buildings to be below the elevation of the highway along a drainageway on the site.

Delsemme said the Tonganoxie center would employ about 15 people. Some of those employees likely would transfer from the Shawnee center, he said.

In Shawnee, the company has a 160-acre tract, but the business occupies only about 30 acres. The remaining ground is used for agricultural purposes.

"There are cattle grazing on it that the owners have and the rest of it is hayed," he said. "There is a perimeter fence around the entire area. It's very secure. We've never had a problem with vandalism."

The company has about 300 distributors in the United States and several others in Canada. Its products are exported to England, Germany, Japan and South America. In the United States, Hodgdon products can be found in Wal-Marts and Cabela's, Delsemme said. Much of the company's product is shipped by United Parcel Service, he said.

"We sell to a distributor who sells to 1,500 Wal-Marts," he said. "And we sell directly to Bass Pro Shop and Cabela's."

The company's business is somewhat seasonal, Delsemme said.

"Our business is typically greater in the summer and fall months prior to the hunting season and would drop off a little bit in the winter and then would pick up in the spring," he said.

The company was started in 1946 by Bruce Hodgdon who purchased government surplus powder. His two sons, Robert and John Hodgdon, own the company today.

"We have a legitimate business and we operate legally and always have and we ship legally and always have," Delsemme said. "We're one of the top businesses in our industry and respected in our industry."

The company's corporate offices are in Overland Park. Hodgdon also rents buildings at Forbes Field in Topeka, where it stores materials. In addition, it has a manufacturing plant in Herington, where Pyrodex has been made since 1978.

"It's used exclusively for muzzle-loading firearms," Delsemme said. "That is the only powder we make and it is classified as a smokeless propellant."

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