Starting next year, Lake City Army Ammunition Plant will have a new operator, though not an unfamiliar one.
The United States Army Joint Munitions Command announced Friday that Olin Winchester LLC, the ammunition arm of Clayton, Missouri-based Olin Corporation, has been selected to operate the plant starting Oct. 1, 2020 for up to 10 years. Olin Winchester previously operated Lake City from 1985 to 2000.
The contract is for five years, plus a two-year option and up three more one-year options. A spokesperson for the Joint Munitions Command would not provide names of other contractors who bid for operations, though current operator Northrop Grumman did bid to retain operation.
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.
It currently has about 2,000 Northrop Grumman employees, not counting some private contractors. It is the area's largest private employer.
Whitney Watson, a local spokesperson for Northrop Grumman, said government will likely brief companies next 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, which has been part of Olin for 89 years, opened a bid proposal site in Blue Springs in May 2018.
The order includes 5.56mm, 7.62mm and caliber .50 cartridges that the plant already produces. Since 2000, Lake City has produced more than 18 billion rounds of small-caliber ammunition.
In addition, Lake City will 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 at Lake City facility – the first in 50 years – going up in the coming years. The new building would be to produce a 6.8-millimeter round – different from the 5.56 and 7.62 small-caliber rounds used by the military.
According to a 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 the Lake City plant. Winchester's manufacturing operations are in East Alton, Ill. and Oxford, Miss., with an international distribution facility in Victoria, Australia.
"Winchester is honored to have been selected by the Army to operate, maintain and modernize this unique, strategic asset of the U.S. Government's munitions industrial base," Winchester President Brett Flaugher said in a release. "Our team is fully prepared and 100 percent committed to the safe, reliable, and responsible operation of Lake City, in the best interest of and service to the U.S. military."