A ribbon cutting and dedication that included Gov. Haley Barbour and officials from Olin Corp. (NYSE: OLN), the parent company of Winchester Ammunition, took place last week at the company's new 500,000-square-foot centerfire ammunition plant in Oxford, MS.
Winchester expects to employ 1,000 workers at the facility when it reaches production capacity by 2016. Some 250 employees are expected to be hired in coming weeks.
The state-of-the-art plant, located adjacent to an existing Winchester facility, will produce small-caliber pistol and rifle ammunition for commercial, law enforcement and military customers. Winchester has been a part of the Oxford community and Lafayette County since the opening of its rimfire operations in 2005, followed by its military packing operations in 2008.
The dedication took place less than 12 months after the company announced its decision to move the centerfire plant from East Alton, IL, to Oxford after a bitter labor stalemate.
In October 2010, members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers rejected two contracts offered by Olin over a two-week period. In exchange for job security, workers were asked to approve a wage freeze for the duration of the agreement, the elimination of a fifth week of vacation, a cessation of company matches to the workers' 401(k) retirement plan and other concessions.
Despite Olin's repeated insistence to union members that it was seriously considering relocating Winchester centerfire operations to Mississippi to enhance the competitiveness of its operations, many union leaders insisted the company was bluffing.
"It is great to be in Oxford celebrating the opening of the Winchester centerfire operations less than a year after Olin officials announced they were bringing 1,000 jobs to Mississippi," Barbour said during the Oct. 12 dedication. "I appreciate the commitment by Olin and the support provided by the Mississippi Development Authority, Lafayette County and the city of Oxford to bring Winchester centerfire here."
According to Olin President and CEO Joseph Rupp, Gov. Barbour and the state of Mississippi "stepped forward with significant incentives" for Winchester's move.
Mississippi business journals reported part of the incentives package offered to Winchester/Olin included the Mississippi Development Authority providing Lafayette County with $25 million through the Mississippi Industry Incentive Financing Revolving Fund to build a new 500,000-square-foot building adjacent to the current Winchester facility in Oxford that will be publicly owned. In addition, the county provided site and site-preparation work.