Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant
The Army Ordnance Department announced in 1942, 80 years prior to the Panasonic announcement, that it would build a plant near De Soto.
Recruitment trucks traveled a 100-mile radius advertising employment. Before the plant was built, people came from nearby states, including significant numbers from Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Many De Soto residents today can trace their family’s beginnings here in town to this recruitment effort, and between 1942 and 1945, De Soto’s population increased from 400 to 1,000.
During construction, thousands of contractors descended on the area with a singular patriotic focus to contribute to the war effort. Peak employment during the plant’s construction was more than 24,000.
At its height during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, the plant employed nearly 15,000 production and administration workers, and was the driving force behind decades of prosperity for De Soto.
During those times, De Soto was home to multiple grocery stores, hardware stores, gas stations, restaurants, and other service-related businesses that added to the employment base in the community. All the while, De Soto maintained its rural, safe, and friendly character that still persists to this day.
The years between and after these major conflicts saw employment and economic activities fall off drastically, and the reality set in that production activities over the decades had significantly contaminated large portions of the site.
And so began decades of uncertainty, rumor, and worry about the status and future of the facility. Gone were the days when the jobs and activity there drove vibrancy in the region. Employment opportunities and local businesses dried up, and cynicism set in about the future of the site.
In 2005, the U.S. Army transferred the former plant site to the Sunflower Redevelopment Group (SRL) but is still being remediated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Astra Enterprise Park
Since the cleanup and redevelopment of Sunflower are so crucial to the future of De Soto, and because the site is so historically and culturally tied to the community, the City began efforts to become directly involved in facilitating the rehabilitation and eventual redevelopment of the site.
- De Soto City Council unanimously voted to annex approximately 6,375* acres of land (almost 10 square miles), including a 6,000-acre portion of the 9,000-acre property.
- City Council implemented a Tax Increment Financing (or TIF) district that will allow future additional tax revenues to be used for cleanup and infrastructure efforts needed to support redevelopment on the site.
- City Council rezoned 1,350 acres of the northeastern corner of the property to allow for industrial development, and we made corresponding updates to our future land use and infrastructure planning needed to facilitate large-scale, job-generating uses on the site. This set the groundwork for the City, developer, and the De Soto Economic Development Council to begin aggressively seeking economic opportunities for the property.
- Sunflower Redevelopment Group renamed the property to Astra Enterprise Park.
- De Soto City Council unanimously voted to annex the final 3,000 acres of the property.
Prior to the annexation, De Soto was approximately 7,400 acres; the new land brings the total acreage to around 16,775.