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A major metro-east employer that was known for nearly a century as Olin Brass announced a major expansion of its East Alton facility on Wednesday.
Wieland Rolled Products North America, the German firm that owns the former ammunition manufacturer, unveiled plans for a $500 million modernization and expansion project so that it can increase production of copper and copper alloy parts for electric vehicles, charging stations and other renewable energy sources.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker was among government officials involved in the announcement. He touted the development as part of his Reimagining Energy and Vehicles program, which will provide Wieland Products with incentives and tax breaks worth an estimated $231 million, according to a release from Pritzker’s office.
Pritzker toured the company’s plant in Vöhringen, Germany last year. He called it a “benchmark for the modernization of the East Alton facility.
“Copper production is an essential part of a sustainable manufacturing future in Illinois, and Wieland’s commitment to increased capacity will benefit other sustainable industries across the state, further growing this thriving sector,” said Pritzker. “Wieland’s leading work in copper solutions is a major part of the East Alton economy, and I’m grateful that they have reaffirmed their commitment to sustainable manufacturing and to the community.”
In its heyday as a wartime manufacturer of ammunition, the former Olin Brass employed up to 1,800 people. In 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency declared the property a Superfund site and began a massive cleanup of contaminated soil and water and, in 2021, Wieland purchased the facility and razed the company’s headquarters building.
Wieland also has Illinois facilities in Carol Stream, Granite City, Montgomery, Tinley Park, and Wheeling. All will be focused on products that support renewable energy production that will save about 800 jobs, said Wieland CEO Dr. Erwin Mayr.
The company laid off 100 employees in East Alton last October.
“Copper is not only integral to the energy transition, it is the foundation of a sustainable future,” said Wieland CEO Dr. Erwin Mayr in a prepared statement. “This investment positions Wieland as the undisputed leader in North American rolled products and underscores our commitment to the revitalization of American manufacturing. This investment represents our dedication to respond to our customers’ evolving needs, bringing long-term sustainable solutions to the North American market. The project will allow Wieland to significantly expand future capacity and deepen our collaboration with our customers in building towards a more sustainable future.”