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Company will build $33 million small arms plant near Liberty

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Commerce Secretary Harry Lightsey congratulated the Pickens County team of industrial recruiters and politicians who helped FN America LLC find a home for its next manufacturing plant. (Photo/Ross Norton)FN America LLC will manufacture firearms and related products in a Pickens County facility near the town of Liberty.

The Pickens County Council voted to grant a fee-in-lieu-of-tax agreement to FN America on Wednesday afternoon at the offices of Alliance Pickens, which is located at the edge of the business park that will house FN America’s $33 million small arms factory. The company expects to break ground next year and start operations in 2025, bringing about 175 new jobs in the five years that follow.

FN America is a subsidiary of FN Herstal S.A., a 134-year-old company based in Herstal, Belgium. Customers include the U.S. military and police departments across the country. The company has been operating a manufacturing plant in Columbia for the last 42 years, now employing about 600, according to FN America CEO Mark Cherpes.  

“What I hope is the facilities will compete against each other and they’ll grow their products – a little sibling rivalry – and we’ll get up to 600 here,” Cherpes joked after the Pickens County Council vote on Wednesday.

Cherpes said he was confident in the five-year plan creating 175 jobs. After that, he said further expansion will depend on product popularity and sales.

He said the Liberty facility will make small arms and may expand to other products.

“We have a full line of adjacent products around firearms, as well. We haven’t released — but we will be releasing — some optics, some suppressors, some other things. Right now the plan is firearms but in the future that may expand.”

The approximately 100,000-square-foot facility will be constructed over two phases, according to a news release.

“FN America has experienced significant growth over the last several years and demand for our products continues to increase in all market segments that we serve,” Cherpes said in the release. “Our new facility in Liberty, South Carolina, will allow us to expand our manufacturing capabilities and grow our highly skilled workforce to meet that new demand. We are proud to partner with Pickens County and the state of South Carolina on this expansion.”

In 1979, FN America broke ground on its facility in Richland County and officially opened its South Carolina operations in 1981 to manufacture the M240 medium machine gun under contract to the U.S. Army, the news release stated. The plant has produced 1 million small arms under contract to the U.S. Department of Defense.

FN America’s primary business focuses on the design and production of a wide range of small arms including lightweight machine guns, medium machine guns and additional weapons for the Defense Department. Additionally, the plant produces firearms for law enforcement agencies as well as consumers.

FN America will fill Pickens County positions in manufacturing, quality assurance, supply chain and logistics, safety and more.

The Commerce Department’s Coordinating Council for Economic Development approved job development credits related to this project.

“Pickens County is pleased to welcome FN America to the Pickens County Commerce Park,” Pickens County Council Chairman Chris Bowers said in the release. “We are looking forward to the addition of 176 new jobs in our county to be filled by our exceptionally skilled workforce. Pickens County is home of the Scholar Technician and our workers have the knowledge, skills and abilities to thrive in the manufacturing environment FN America is establishing here.”

FN America is headquartered in McLean, Va.

Reach Ross Norton at or 864-642-5229.

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