In the battle for being home to high-paying, skilled labor jobs for gun makers, another Southern state has won the most recent skirmish. Kimber Manufacturing Inc. is the latest firearm manufacturer to announce not only that it was expanding, but that it was getting a foothold outside of the Northeast, which once was a preferred geographical location for such jobs.
Kimber isn’t leaving New York, where it has a plant in Yonkers, but in looking to double its manufacturing capacity, it decided to build in Troy, Ala., where southern hospitality will treat the company with open arms in terms of state regulations on its products and friendliness toward business expansion in the future.
“As we continue to move into uncharted waters in regards to Kimber product demand, it was important to us to build a facility that will allow us to secure a significant new plateau of capacity,” said James Cox, Kimber’s chief financial officer.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, in her State of the State address where she mentioned the deal, said city and state officials “can offer Kimber an ideal business environment and a skilled workforce for its expansion project.” The factory, Kimber’s sixth location, will be an automated design, engineering and manufacturing facility that is expected to employ more than 350 people within five years. It is scheduled to come online in 2019.
“Growing our company intelligently depends significantly on being in the right manufacturing environment, and in Troy, we have a community dedicated to our long-term success,” Leslie Edelman, Kimber’s president and chief executive officer, said in a press release about the decision. “Working with the Alabama Department of Commerce as well as Mayor Jason Reeves and his team has been a pleasurable and rewarding experience,”
The prospect of gun manufacturers expanding in the South continues a decades-long trend that started primarily because of high tax burdens but that got its second wind a few years ago, when jurisdictions with liberal lawmakers began the latest wave of enacting gun control laws after the Sandy Hook school shooting. The hurdles range from higher fees for carry permits, to limitations on magazine capacity, to heated discourse in opposition to semi-automatic rifles and more. So, it’s not surprising that firearm makers are looking to produce in localities more supportive of their products.
Beretta was one of the first companies in the second wave of moving South. When the company fled Maryland for Tennessee, its executives cited state politics as a key factor in the decision. “Unfortunately, as we were planning that expansion, Maryland’s governor and legislature voted in favor of new regulations that unfairly attack products we make and that our customers want. These regulations also demean our law-abiding customers, who must now be fingerprinted like criminals before they can be allowed to purchase one of our products.” Dr. Ugo Gusalli Beretta said in a Washington Times op-ed column.
Other companies followed suit, with Sturm Ruger & Co. Inc. and Remington Outdoor Co. Inc. expanding in the south, while Magpul Industries pulled up stakes in Colorado after the state banned magazines that hold more than 15 rounds.
The Northeast started as the logical hub for gun makers, because in the industry’s infancy cheap steel was most easily available in that region. But the trend toward moving manufacturing to the South or the Midwest makes sense more recently not just because of gun laws and taxes, but because the plants will be closer to the customer base.