A weekend after winning the contract from the United States Joint Munitions Command, the future – and returning – operator of Lake City Army Ammunition Plant has not released details regarding future employees.
Olin Winchester is the ammunition arm of Olin Corporation, based in Clayton, Missouri. The Army late Friday announced that Olin Winchester has been chosen Friday operate Lake City starting Oct. 1, 2020 for up to 10 years. It previously operated Lake City from 1985 to 2000.
When reached Monday by The Examiner, a spokesperson for Olin Winchester said it had no further comment for now beyond Friday's news release, which offered no details regarding possibly keeping the current workforce or possibly adding to it. Current operator Northrop Grumman, which bid for contract renewal, has said it employs about 2,000 at Lake City, not counting some private contractors.
The plant, which covers nearly 4,000 acres on rural eastern edge of Independence and is owned by the Army, produces about 90 percent of the military's small-caliber ammunition, as well as ammunition for commercial sales. According to Friday's release, Winchester been providing ammunition to the U.S. military since World War I and is currently the Army's largest producer of small-caliber ammunition outside of Lake City.
The operating contract for Lake City is for five years, plus a two-year option and up to three more one-year options.
A conjunction with its bid proposal, Olin Winchester opened an office in Blue Springs in May 2018 for what it called “community outreach.” It offered to meet with any potential suppliers or subcontractors interested in working with the firm, as well as current, former and prospective plant employees. The company hosted an open house at that office in August.
In April, Northrop Grumman subsidiary Alliant Techsystems Operations received a $194 million order from the U.S. Army for existing ammunition lines for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which begins this week.
Whitney Watson, a local spokesperson for Northrop Grumman, said Friday the government will likely brief companies this week regarding the bids. He said he believes one other company bid for the contract.
“We remain committed to operating this facility; we are dedicated to the mission Lake City has stood for since 1941,” Watson said. “We are going to work with Winchester throughout process to make sure it's a smooth transition.”
Olin Winchester employees at Lake City will eventually be producing a different-sized ammunition round for a new combat rifle that the Army is developing. That new ammunition line will mean a new building constructed in the Lake City facility in the coming years – something that had been planned regardless of contractor.
The new building, which would be the first at Lake City in about 50 years, during the Vietnam War, would be to produce a 6.8-millimeter round – different from the 5.56 and 7.62 small-caliber rounds used by the military.
The Army also recently bid out a new $33.9 million water treatment plant for Lake City.