Lewis Machine & Tool

The new Lewis Machine & Tool headquarters in Eldridge is expected to open in April after decades of operations in Milan. The gun maker recently secured a $25 million contract to manufacture 16,000 rifles for the European nation of Estonia.

The gun-making group moving into the Eldridge Industrial Park this spring is bringing with it a $25 million contract to make rifles for a European military.

Lewis Machine & Tool, which is relocating from Milan to its new and much larger plant in Eldridge, is supplying the Estonian Defence Forces with 16,000 rifles, company officials announced.

Estonia borders Russia and the Baltic Sea in northern Europe.

"They'll all be made in Eldridge," LMT's director of sales and marketing, Matt Pruitt said of the 16,000 rifles that will be manufactured for Estonia's military.

The thousands of firearms represent the company's largest order, Pruitt said, but not its largest invoice. In 2009, he said, LMT landed a deal with the United Kingdom that carried a $30 million price tag.

The manufacturing of the arms will take considerable time, he said, but LMT will have no problem keeping up with whatever delivery schedule the country can handle. Big orders always are delivered in stages, such as the 10,000 rifles Lewis produced for New Zealand.

"This is our first time in Estonia," Pruitt said. "As a company, we are in 45 countries in the world."

Eldridge Mayor Marty O'Boyle said the success of the latest tenant to his city's industrial park is promising.

"That's a lot of work; no doubt about it," he said of the Estonia order. "For a small operation, that's a big deal. Hopefully they keep getting deals like that and can keep growing the plant."

James Martin, assistant city administrator, said LMT is committed under its development agreement with Eldridge to add to its workforce. The current 128 full-time employees are to be bolstered by 50 new positions by January of 2020, and that number is to remain stable until the TIF (tax increment financing) agreement expires at the end of 2031.

The company received about $1 million in state and local tax incentives when deciding to relocate to the industrial park, where it will have its own firearms testing range. About twice the size of its Milan facility, the Eldridge locale also will include a production plant, offices and a warehouse, totaling about 65,000 square feet.

Construction began in November 2017 and is expected to be finished in April.