By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – An election-day defeat in East Alton, Ill., turned into a big win for Oxford and Lafayette County.
On Tuesday, union workers at Olin Corp.’s Winchester Centerfire munitions factory in East Alton rejected for the second time in two weeks contract concessions that would have kept the jobs there.
Less than 24 hours later, Olin officials said Wednesday the company would shift the factory’s nearly 1,000 jobs to Oxford, which already has 150 workers at its Winchester Rimfire operation.
“While I am disappointed that employees represented by the International Association of Machinists chose to reject a proposal that would have allowed us to remain competitive in East Alton, we look forward to expanding our existing operations in Mississippi,” Olin CEO Joseph D. Rupp said in a statement.
Two weeks ago, the union, by a 2-1 margin, rejected concessions that included a wage freeze, elimination of the company’s 401(k) match and elimination of a fifth week of vacation. On Tuesday, the union voted 593-470 to reject the offer again.
Rupp said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and the state “stepped forward with significant incentives.”
The state offered an undisclosed amount of incentives to attract Olin, which announced in August it could save $30 million by moving its Centerfire operations to Oxford.
Part of the incentives package includes the Mississippi Development Authority providing Lafayette County with money through the Mississippi Industry Incentive Financing Revolving Fund to build a new 500,000-square-foot building for Olin. It will be adjacent to the current Winchester facility in Oxford and will be publicly owned. The county also is providing the site and site preparation work.
Rupp said having all of Centerfire’s operations in one building gave Win-chester “significant efficiencies. Combined with lower labor costs, those efficiencies will allow us to deliver quality products and compete effectively in this highly competitive industry.”
Rupp acknowledged the union’s efforts, as well as those of Illinois’ state, local and congressional officials to provide an “extremely attractive” incentives package to keep Olin in East Alton.
“Unfortunately, without the labor costs-savings and efficiencies that the IAM proposal would have provided, the state incentives alone would not have allowed us to remain competitive for the long-term at our current location in Illinois,” he said.
According to the MDA, Olin will invest about $100 million to create 1,000 new jobs over the next five years.
“Having a business climate where existing operations can expand and new industries can thrive is a point of pride for all Mississippians.” said Barbour.
Said Max Hipp, president and CEO of the Oxford/Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation, “This expansion demonstrates Olin-Winchester’s confidence in our community and reflects positively on our area’s work force.”
The Winchester jobs announcement comes nearly two years after Whirlpool laid off the last 400 of its 750 workers in Oxford.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.