Ronson Machine and Manufacturing is aiming to relocate in Independence to the former Kmart building on U.S. 24 in the Susquehanna area.
The sheet metal manufacturer, founded in 1976, employs more than 80 people and currently operates in a 50,000-square foot facility at 3000 Jackson Drive, just north of R.D. Mize Road near Little Blue Parkway. It also leases about 55,000 square feet of space in the Geospace Center caves for storage.
The Planning Commission last week unanimously recommended rezoning the old Kmart, which closed last year, from general commercial to service commercial, which permits light manufacturing and warehousing. The City Council is scheduled to have a first reading for the rezoning Jan. 22 and could approve it Feb. 4.
Kyle Carver, whose father owns the company, said Ronson is about three times the size of what it was in 1989, when his father Terry became owner, and has slowly added employees. It could add a few after the proposed move.
“We're at a crossroads and need to be under one roof,” he said, adding that he saw the empty building of a former big box retailer and “thought this could be a win-win.”
Howard Levy, representing the company that owns the building, said they had reached out to numerous retailers to see if they had any interest in moving into the facility. Kmart's portion of the building is nearly 97,000 square feet.
Responding to questions about noise and possible traffic, Carver said sheet metal manufacturing makes less noise than decades ago, and Ronson doesn't reach federal thresholds requiring ear protection inside its own building. With employees working in shifts, he said, most movement from Ronson would take place to during non-peak traffic times.
Doug Goodwin, a supervisor at Ronson, said the company hasn't received any noise complaints at its current manufacturing facility, which has a proximity to homes similar to the Kmart the location, if not closer.
Kati Horner, the city of Independence's traffic engineer, said Ronson's possible move shouldn't stress traffic too much in the area. Being that U.S. 24 is a state highway, a stoplight at the area's entrance would be at the discretion of the Missouri Department of Transportation.
Council Member Curt Dougherty, whose district includes that lot, said another retailer occupant was not realistic and Ronson moving in would be an “uptick” in the neighborhood and good for the city.
“Other cities were all trying to lure them away,” he said.