The name Oude IJsselstreek refers to the Oude IJssel river that flows through the municipality. The river has played a major part in the history and the layout of a number of large residential areas in the municipality. Iron and metal play an important part in Oude IJsselstreek. This is reflected in the many iron and bronze pieces of art that can be found in the municipality, especially in and around Ulft.
The industrial activity in the municipality has its roots in the (former) iron foundries (Huts) along the Oude IJssel river. The later iron industry provided many people with jobs for a long period of time. Nowadays, employment is more diverse. In addition to the iron industry, the inhabitants now work in the wood industry, agriculture and in the field of recreation and tourism. There are a total of 2,290 companies in the municipality, providing 16,510 jobs.
Of importance to the development of especially places such as Ulft and Gendringen is the presence of the Oude IJssel river and bog ore. There was plenty of bog ore and it was easy to dig. The iron pans underneath the farmlands are very harmful to the crops and the bog ore posed a problem to the farmers. In 1753 the plan arose to start an iron foundry. The ore became profitable and the farmers’ problems were solved.
In 1754 iron foundry ‘Olde Hut’ was established in Ulft. This was the second blast-furnace company in the Netherlands. The Ulft iron foundry was remarkably a noble initiative, namely of the Count of Bergh. He founded the iron foundry “Olde Hut” with some other wealthy gentlemen in 1754. After a couple of years this ‘iron hut’ was taken over by Diepenbrock en Reigers. They came from the German Bocholt where they already owned an iron foundry. In 1831 the two families became the owner of the factory and the name was renamed Diepenbrock and Reigers in Ulft (DRU). In the 18th century the factory mainly made firebacks and cannonballs, but the range was gradually expanded with grilles, bathtubs, enamel pans, car parts, gas fires and stoves. The DRU was the largest employer in the region and of such importance that the Oude IJssel was diverted for it.
In 1999, the DRU left Ulft. Where the DRU used to be a symbol for the iron industry, it is now one of the most successful examples of recycling industrial heritage in the Netherlands. The porter building has been transformed into a cultural factory with an theater hall, a library, catering, meeting rooms, school of music and a concert hall. The Emailleerfabriek has been transformed into houses and the office of a housing association, the Ketelhuis is still under construction and the Afbramerij offers ICER, an innovative centre that intends to make young people enthusiastic about technology, and also the Dutch Iron Museum.