At the heart of the town’s continuing good fortune, as ever, is the factory. “Now compared to six months ago is night and day,” says Kollitides, who took the reins as CEO of the parent company, the Freedom Group, a little over a year ago. “We painted the walls, changed the lights, put in machinery, and invested $20 million. Last year, when I took over, we had guys in overalls covered in grease from the machinery. Now, we’re changing everything. This is a real bet on America.”
Walking the Edwardian building’s million square feet is an unusually pleasant experience. The floors are wooden and the halls are, in Paul Merz’s words, “narrow, like an aircraft carrier.” The place bustles: Thousands of half-assembled weapons are urgently moved around on trolleys, ready for the next stage — and the air is filled with the sound of drills, hammers, and hydraulic thrust. Last year, Ilion produced a million guns; this year it’s aiming to make 1.2 million. Everywhere there are charts showing improvement and increased production.