2013 Look Back: Wyoming makes play for gun manufacturers looking to relocate

2013-12-26T21:00:00Z 2013-12-26T22:05:14Z 2013 Look Back: Wyoming makes play for gun manufacturers looking to relocateBy LAURA HANCOCK Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

In early 2013, as state legislatures throughout the United States passed stricter gun laws, firearms manufacturers headquartered in Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland and New York announced, one by one, that they were looking for new homes.

With the starting shots fired, the race had begun. Governors, state legislatures and economic development organizations from Texas, South Carolina, Idaho, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Mississippi, Utah and Wyoming have been competing in a dash to attract the companies.

The race continues, with Wyoming scoring a couple of victories along the way. Colorado companies HiViz Shooting Systems and Ammo Kan will soon be manufacturing in Laramie.

Gov. Matt Mead is pleased to have the two companies in Laramie, said his spokesman, Renny MacKay.

"It shows a resurgence in manufacturing and that Wyoming can meet the needs of diverse business enterprises," McKay said in an email. Maverick Ammunition also does business as Ammo Kan. "Maverick’s CEO noted unprecedented demand for Maverick’s product. For Wyoming this means more jobs and more opportunities to work here."

The customers

Firearms aficionados tend to be more vocal than consumers of other products. For them, guns are sacred, the right to bear arms enshrined in the Bill of Rights, said Mike Bazinet, director of public affairs for the Newtown, Conn.-based National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents firearms manufacturers.

They disseminate their views on social media, Bazinet said.

The state laws that restricted gun use made exceptions for manufacturers to test their products, but that wasn’t good enough for many consumers, he said.

“When they see a state like Connecticut or New York pass these very tough laws, they often get in touch with the manufacturers and say, ‘We’re really going to think twice about buying one of your products, not because we don’t like your product but because we don’t want our money in any way going to support that state government,’” Bazinet said.

That’s why some companies want to completely up and move, or expand to new states, he said.

The Wyoming push

A handful of entities in Wyoming have made overtures to gun manufacturers.

In February, as the state’s 2013 legislative session wound to a close, lawmakers passedresolution inviting Magpul Industries Corp. of Erie, Colo., to move to the Cowboy State.

Magpul is the Centennial State’s largest and most profitable manufacturer of high-capacity ammunition magazines. Its executives threatened to leave Colorado if the state legislature passed a law limiting the number of rounds in a magazine. The Colorado lawmakers were acting in the aftermath of the Aurora movie theater shootings, and proceeded with the law despite the threats.

When the Wyoming Business Council saw the first news reports about Magpul, its staff reached out to Magpul.

By March 21, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the bill into law. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead talked on the phone with Magpul executives. Rep. Bunky Loucks, R-Casper, became the Wyoming Legislature’s designated contact to the company and began emailing an executive at Magpul.

Economic development organizations throughout the state reached out to Magpul, including Cheyenne LEADS, Forward Cody and the Campbell County Economic Development Corp.

Magpul still remains in Colorado and its executives have been silent for months about a potential out-of-state move.

The victors

South Carolina won PTR Industries, a small manufacturer of modern sporting rifles, which is moving its entire operation and 80 employees from Bristol, Conn. Forty additional jobs will be created in South Carolina. Gov. Nikki Haley attended the ribbon cutting, Bazinet said.

A Texas company won a license to produce high-grade rifles used in marksmanship competitions from Hartford, Conn.-based Colt, he said.

Kahr Arms had been headquartered in New York, but after the Empire State enacted stricter laws, executives decided to move the headquarters to eastern Pennsylvania. Kahr’s manufacturing is in Massachusetts, which is considering tougher laws. The company is asking the state to be aware of the economic implications, Bazinet said.

“When they decided to move their headquarters to eastern Pennsylvania, they did so in an area where if they had to put in a plant, they had plenty of land to do so,” he said.

Laramie successes

In May, Fort Collins, Colo.-based HiViz Shooting Systems announced it was moving to Laramie. Six months later, Littleton, Colo.-based Ammo Kan also said it had decided on the southeastern Wyoming city, too.

HiViz makes makes rifle sights, among other firearms components. It anticipates moving all employees to Wyoming and opening shop in July. The company also anticipates hiring locally.

Ammo Kan will manufacture under the Maverick Ammunition label. It will hire 50 people locally and expects to produce 1.8 million rounds a week by the second half of 2014.

More companies Wyo-bound?

Most gun companies operate in relative secrecy. They are privately owned, not traded on any stock market, and do not have to make announcements to shareholders about which communities they are in negotiations with, Bazinet said.

“They can keep their decision-making close to the vest because there are only a few investors or they are in the hands of a very few people,” Bazinet said. “They don’t have that requirement that a publicly traded company has to be transparent.”

So far, most of the companies that have announced decisions to move to Wyoming or elsewhere have been small. Moving larger companies, such as Magpul, will take time, he said.

“It’s not possible to turn manufacturing on a dime,” he said. “These are decisions that roll out usually over years.”

MacKay, the governor's spokesman, noted that Wyoming’s advantages include no corporate or personal income tax, one of the lowest costs of electricity in the country, access to rail and interstate transportation and reasonable, stable regulations.

To attract manufacturers, MacKay said that the state has a sales tax exemption in place now on machinery and on electricity and power used in manufacturing. There are also grants and loans to help a business find a building, he said.

Wyoming has pros and cons for gun manufacturers, Bazinet said.

The state has low taxes, a culture of hunting and laws that are friendly to firearms owners and manufacturers, he said.

Wyoming is also remote: Far away from parts suppliers and markets to sell products, he said.

“It’s a complicated calculus for the management of these companies,” Bazinet said.

Reach state reporter Laura Hancock at 307-266-0581 or at Follow her on Twitter: @laurahancock.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(8) Comments

  1. Wyopoke
    Report Abuse
    Wyopoke - December 28, 2013 12:46 pm
    I think the acidic tone of all these posts from the same group of people on each side of any issue speaks volumes about the state of our State as well as our Nation...much more than the actual content of the posts. If only we could simply state our positions and leave it at that. Nobody is going to change anyone's mind in a comment on any article. Why can't we state our opinions based upon data and experience, respect others beliefs without name calling or innuendo, and leave it at that?
    Report Abuse
    WYO-BILL - December 28, 2013 8:56 am
    This is not a liberal or conservative issue. WYO needs jobs and job diversification. I think it is great to attract these businesses here. Unfortunately to do that the Wyo Business Council and other tax redistribution entities need to pay these companies to come here - and for how long?
  3. dd ric
    Report Abuse
    dd ric - December 28, 2013 5:59 am
    if you didn't see it, koolkat,i'm blackfoot. and i guess another in wyo. that trolls the Trib. After all,look at all the Americans here that believe themselves above others, and will not ever walk in anothers shoes. There are others trolls around that have my back,and if you think you can trust your ilk (Enzi and Cheney),bless ya! ddric
  4. TBA
    Report Abuse
    TBA - December 27, 2013 8:12 am
    Democrats have nothing on people like you and your hatred of anything,or anyone,who does not suck up to the tea billy mentality.As a matter of fact,if it were not for another party to keep the phony rinos in check,the rest of us sane folk would be treated like the Third Reich treated the Jews.
  5. Kool Kat
    Report Abuse
    Kool Kat - December 27, 2013 7:38 am
    Attn 99, I hear you. As dd ric, and quite a few of "non tax paying" partisans bragged about how they owned Riverton when the Gov and our Congressional members rebuked that thought.
    I'd never read so much hate from these people till lately, and thought which I'd see which of the Arapahoes or Shoshones hate whites worse? Sad that natives have lost their pride out of hatred.
  6. 99Savage
    Report Abuse
    99Savage - December 27, 2013 7:19 am
    A big welcome to these manufacturers. These are good businesses that will not disappear when Obama goes away. They will provide quality employment for a long time and maybe help dilute some of the lunatic liberal influence that pervades Laramie.

    Kool, dd ric and a few others that infect these forums are simply bitter trolls full of loathing and hate with nothing ever positive to contribute. Ignore them. Don't feed the trolls.
  7. Kool Kat
    Report Abuse
    Kool Kat - December 27, 2013 6:47 am
    Attn dd ric, did you say you are Arapaho or Shoshone>
  8. dd ric
    Report Abuse
    dd ric - December 27, 2013 5:52 am
    Big money in nuclear triggers too,Gov. Matt Mead. Why not Serin and VX? Timothy McVeigh lived in the wrong State. Here in Laramie he would now be a God to pray to......but then again Campbell County has the most active KKK. Still I wonder,what does anyone need all that velocity for,....shooting thru a screen door into someones face? ddric
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