Nearly 10 years ago, the now-largest employer in Eastern Jackson County embarked on a decade of change and progress.

Nearly 10 years ago, the now-largest employer in Eastern Jackson County embarked on a decade of change and progress.

On April 3, 2000, Alliant Techsystems assumed operation of Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in eastern Independence at Missouri 7 and Missouri 78. The U.S. Army, which owns the plant, has extended the company’s contract through September 2013.  

The employees of Lake City have more than doubled from about 1,000 in 2000 to about 2,600 employees today, and the plant has gone from producing about 500 million rounds annually to more than 1.4 billion.

The changes are still ongoing.

According to Mark Hissong, the plant’s director of modernization for the small caliber systems division, the Army’s $250 million modernization program announced in 2006 continues at Lake City.

The 4,000-acre Lake City was constructed in the early 1940s just before the U.S. entered World War II, along with about a dozen different plants across the United States, Hissong said. Since then, he said, such plants have experienced “peaks and valleys with demand” for small-caliber ammunition throughout different wars and conflicts.

Similar plants across the country have closed because of this reduction in demand, Hissong said, including the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Minnesota.

“I think the Army’s strategy throughout that time has been to consolidate a lot of that equipment into Lake City,” Hissong said. “The caveat is that a lot of that equipment was built in the 1940s, so some of it is literally 50 or 60 years old.”

The seven-year modernization program, Hissong said, includes the following:

Reduce critical single point failures.


Increase production reliability, utilizing lean manufacturing practices.


Increase production flexibility.


Reduce safety hazards and environmental emissions.


Infrastructure upgrades. For the most part, Hissong said, the plant is a self-contained city, including a water treatment facility, a boiler power plant, explosive waste incinerators and an electrical distribution system;


 Cause no impact to current delivery requirements.

“Go do all this good stuff, but keep in mind that you’ve got to deliver quality ammunition to the government while you do it,” Hissong said of the final provision.   

Lake City is the largest small-arms manufacturing plant in the United States, producing 5.56mm, 7.62mm and .50-caliber rounds for the U.S. armed forces and NATO allies. The most popular small caliber, the 5.56mm, is used in M4 and M16 assault rifles, His