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Winchester Ammunition bringing $3.5-million payroll to Oxford

Oxford — The company that started out in business as the manufacturer of “The Gun That Won The West” is moving part of its operation to Oxford, and the result will be a $3.5-million payroll.

Winchester Ammunition will be located in the former Emerson Electric building in the Lafayette County Industrial Park. The 200,000-square-foot facility was bought for Winchester and is being leased to them by Lafayette County, after significant infrastructure changes to accommodate the building.

This has been made possible by incentives and other financial assistance from the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), which is the state’s leading economic and community development agency.

The new Winchester plant will manufacture .22-caliber rimfire ammunition and industrial power tool loads.
Winchester, with headquarters in East Alton, Ill., is a division of the Olin Corporation. Winchester is a global manufacturer of canister powder, sporting ammunition and reloading components for sport and recreational shooters and for the military and law enforcement agencies. The Winchester rifle, “The Gun That Won The West,” came into being in the 1860s.

“When the plant opens, it will employ 150 people,” according to Max Hipp, executive director of the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation. “But we expect employment to go up to 300 in the future.”

Hipp said that Winchester had hoped to open the plant in April or May of 2005. but that it would probably be late summer before operations can get underway.
Winchester plans to fill the 15 salaried jobs within the next few weeks and the hourly wage jobs in the spring of 2005.
Hipp indicated that the deal has been a year-and-a-half in the making and that a key player was Memphis private consultant Mike Mullis, who worked with the MDA and who helped steer Winchester to Mississippi.

“Securing projects involves the work of a number of individuals and organizations,” Hipp said. “Alan Raymond, the MDA project manager, was most beneficial in advancing this project to where we are today.”

Hipp also cited the MDA, Lafayette County Board of Supervisors, City of Oxford, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), University of Mississippi and “one of our corporate leaders — Caterpillar. They all contributed diligently to make it possible for Winchester to locate in Mississippi.”

“Winchester was looking for an available, existing building. We made sure they got our information. They came to take a look and liked what they saw.”

Lafayette County was chosen after Winchester looked at some 50 other sites, mostly in the Southeast, according to Richard Hammett, Winchester’s president.
The decision came down to “a matter of economics,” Hammett said.

“Winchester Ammunition is extremely pleased to be relocating our rimfire product line to Mississippi,” he added. “We have been located in the same community for a very long time and we look forward to being a part of Oxford for the next 100 years.”

The Winchester plant in East Alton, which has been the company’s home since 1892, has some 3,500 employees. Attrition will take care of the 150 jobs lost to Oxford, a company spokesperson said.

Work on this deal began in 2003. The negotiations dragged on with what was called “Project Victory.” The project had to overcome potential roadblocks that ranged from concern with the environment to county budget problems.

Finally, the project moved forward with Lafayette County’s purchase of the Emerson building (empty since 2002) with a low-interest state loan that will be repaid at $220,000 a year over the next 20 years.

As long as Winchester employees at least 133 people full time, it won’t have to make direct lease payments to the county.
Part of the deal is that Lafayette County expects to receive a number of indirect benefits. TVA estimated that the rimfire line’s 150 new jobs will not only have an estimated initial payroll of $3.5 million, but that retail and service spending will generate $6.2 million locally. All of the plant’s employees will be from Lafayette and surrounding counties.

It is also estimated that the state will collect some $435,000 annually in taxes once Winchester begins production. For the plant renovation, the state is giving almost twice the amount in grant initiatives that it usually provides for such projects.

The $1.6-million grant package includes $100,000 from TVA and $100,000 from Caterpillar, which is also located in the industrial park and which will benefit by being able to use the waste water system being upgraded for Winchester.
The company will invest around $5 million in the plant and in equipment. Winchester will occupy half of the building and Hammett didn’t indicate whether it would expand in the future.

Olin is one of the world’s leading materials companies and a leading North American producer of copper alloys, ammunition and chlorine and caustic soda. In 2003, Olin reported sales of $1.6 billion. The company has approximately 5,700 employees at manufacturing locations throughout the United States.

Contact MBJ contributing writer at George McNeill at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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