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Firearms companies give South Carolina a shot

By Chuck Crumbo
Published Nov. 13, 2013

AYNOR, S.C. — In fewer than four months, three firearms manufacturers announced plans to move or expand their business to South Carolina, investing $17.4 million and promising to create nearly 400 jobs.

All three companies cited many of the same reasons other manufacturers list for locating in the Palmetto State: dynamic workforce training programs, low business costs and strong infrastructure.

However, the state’s political culture that supports Second Amendment gun rights has emerged as another arrow in the state’s economic development quiver.

“It very much played a role,” said Joshua Sykes, spokesman for American Tactical Imports, which announced in October the company will relocate from Syracuse, N.Y., and open a warehouse and distribution center in Dorchester County. “ATI is in the firearms business, and they wanted to be in a state that has a good Second Amendment mindset.”

The recruiting of firearms firms began when PTR Industries said it was leaving its home in Bristol, Conn., because of eroding support for the industry.

On June 24, PTR made it official, announcing its new home would be in Aynor, a small western Horry County town of about 600 people, 28 miles from Myrtle Beach. The project will consist of an investment of $8 million and the creation of 145 jobs.

About four months later, Ithaca Gun Co., headquartered in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, announced plans to expand and move next door to PTR’s new shop. Ithaca said its investment would total $6.7 million and create 120 jobs.

Being in a pro-Second Amendment state was critical to both companies, said Brad Lofton, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp.

As part of the effort to court the firearms industry, the S.C. Legislature unanimously passed a resolution encouraging out-of-state firearms businesses and manufacturers to locate in South Carolina, Lofton said.

Although the state’s pro-gun rights stance might be a factor in the manufacturers’ decisions, the goal of any company is to make money, said Scott Mason, who serves as the Fluor Endowed Chair in Supply Chain and Logistics in Clemson University’s Department of Industrial Engineering.

While there might not be a direct connection between profitability and political culture, there could be a correlation effect between favorable political culture and profitability, Mason said.

“The incentive packages a state/region can offer to a company can be a draw in terms of ‘Should we choose this location?’” Mason said. “I would argue as well that favorable logistics conditions in a state such as South Carolina can also play a major role, as total delivered cost of an item to customers incorporates many other costs in addition to just manufacturing labor cost.”

Josh Fiorini, president and CEO of PTR, said infrastructure, access to interstates and a skilled labor force were keys to the company’s decision.

PTR will be moving into a 58,000-square-foot spec building that the county built in Cool Springs Business Park near Aynor.

Ithaca, which is investing $6.7 million and planning to create 120 jobs, will build a 20,000-square-foot facility at Cool Springs.

American Tactical Imports, an importer of firearms, ammunition and tactical equipment to the U.S., said its decision to relocate was two-fold.

The company needed to be in a state friendly to the Second Amendment. And, being an importer, ATI wanted to be close to a port of entry like the Port of Charleston. ATI achieved both goals by relocating to South Carolina.

“This move to South Carolina will help ensure a solid foundation for our company,” said Tony DiChario, president and founder of ATI.

The company will be located in Eastport Industrial Park in Summerville. The $2.7 million investment is expected to generate 117 jobs.

Reach Chuck Crumbo at 803-726-7542.