Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill Wednesday that will limit firearm magazine sizes in his state, bolstering the hopes of Wyoming politicians and business leaders that Magpul Industries Corp. will move to the Cowboy State.
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead along with members of the Wyoming Legislature, the Wyoming Business Council, Cheyenne LEADS — the Cheyenne-Laramie County Corporation for Economic Development — and Forward Cody have reached out to the Erie, Colo.-based firearm magazine manufacturer.
The Denver Post has described Magpul as Colorado’s largest and most profitable manufacturer of high-capacity ammunition magazines. The company’s departure from Colorado to a so-called gun-friendly state could be seen as a symbol of the firearms divide in the United States, and a coup to states like Wyoming, with many of its residents cherishing firearms.
Competition will be stiff.
Since Magpul executives promised they would leave Colorado if that state created a law limiting ammunition magazines to
15 rounds, it has received offers from mostly “red” states ranging from South Carolina to Utah, according to media reports.
But Wyoming economic development leaders believe they have an advantage that the other states lack: proximity.
A company spokesman did not return calls to the Star-Tribune on Wednesday.
Renny MacKay, a Mead spokesman, said the governor had a good conversation with the company’s executives.
“He assured the company that this is a pro-gun state and we would welcome Magpul,” MacKay wrote in an email. “As he did when Wyoming was recruiting Microsoft, Gov. Mead touted Wyoming’s record – we have the most pro-business tax structure in the country, an excellent quality of life, and an accessible, responsive government. We are close by and would be a great home for Magpul.”
Wyoming has no corporate income tax, no inventory tax and no personal income tax. The cost of living is relatively low. Those are selling points, said James Klessens, CEO and president of Forward Cody, an economic development group that has spoken by telephone and email to Magpul employees.
Wyoming has a high number of military veterans, which will also be a selling point, he said.
“Their key leadership were all veterans, Marines,” Klessens said.
Klessens said the Colorado law, which goes into effect July 1, was amended to allow Magpul to continue manufacturing high-capacity magazines. It just can’t sell or distribute them in Colorado. After July 1, the company will have to ship outside of Colorado.
“Their pressure to jump and leave the state was not as high as it was initially,” he said.
That gives the company time to consider options. That’s good for Wyoming, Klessens said, because Wyoming business and civic leaders have time to sell the state.
Some Magpul employees live in Fort Collins, not far from Cheyenne, said Rep. Bunky Loucks, R-Capser, who has been in communication with a contact at the company on behalf of the Wyoming Legislature.
Annie Wood, the marketing and communications director for LEADS, said her organization has reached out to Magpul “but we don’t have anything confirmed.”
In February, members of the Legislature signed their names to an informal resolution – it was too late in the session to pass a formal resolution, according to the Legislature’s rules – encouraging the company to move to Wyoming.
“They manufacture products that a lot of people in Wyoming buy,” Loucks said.
The company has hundreds of employees. Magpul’s presence would diversify Wyoming’s economy, which is intensive in mining, tourism and agriculture, Loucks said.
Wyoming Business Council staff reached out to Magpul in mid-February when they saw the first media reports about the company’s promise on the Colorado legislation.
“As soon as we became aware of that, we were trying to make contact that day,” said Ben Avery, director of the Business Council’s business and industry division. “And have since have had follow-up contact with high-level executives. In fact, even this morning, Bob Jensen, our CEO, had a discussion with one of our good contacts at Magpul,” Avery said Wednesday.
Avery declined to speak for Magpul management on the company’s next move.
However, he said “everyone needs to be conscious” that a company’s roots are important. It’s where management’s families are. It’s where their suppliers are. While companies often expand outside their home states, it’s rare to completely move.
“On the front end of any media, it’s usually about the company really not wanting to move but hoping some media play will have some influence on the legislation – in this case, Colorado – not to pass the legislation that may be harmful to the company,” Avery said.
If Magpul were interested in Wyoming, it would probably next describe to the Business Council what technology, buildings and other infrastructure it needed. Business Council staff would get the word out to local economic development groups, which would prepare documents to show how they could fulfill the company’s needs. The Business Council would prepare those proposals as one package from Wyoming.