Indiana passing on gun manufacturers

Two weeks ago, the National Rifle Association held its national convention in Indianapolis bringing more than 70,000 participants and firearm-related exhibitors to our state capital.
While Gov. Mike Pence spoke at the convention, along with Sarah Palin and other pro-gun activists and commentators, the state of Indiana — and more specifically the Indiana Economic Development Corp. (IEDC) — seems to have missed a splendid opportunity to potentially recruit firearms manufacturers and the high-value-added employment they would bring to underemployed Hoosiers.
For many years prior to his election in 2010, State Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville has had the dream of recruiting firearms manufacturers to Indiana. In 2005, he first approached officials at Crane Naval Warfare Center, which is involved in weapons design and testing, to discuss the possibilities of recruiting gun manufacturers to Southern Indiana.
While being warmly received by Crane officials so many years ago, state officials for some reason have been much less receptive.
Responding to grass-roots harassment and state legislation imposing magazine capacity restrictions, “assault” weapons bans and personal handgun restrictions, there have already been many corporate relocations in the firearms industry.
In recent years the Pietro Beretta Co., the oldest firearms manufacture in the world which produces military, police and civilian pistols, announced in January it will be moving its U.S. operations from Akokeek, Md., to Galatin, Tenn., north of Nashville, building a new $45 million facility which will employ more than 400 people. Remington, a veteran U.S. company with corporate offices in Madison, NC, announced in February it will be moving a portion of its Ilion, N.Y. manufacturing facility to Huntsville, Ala.
Another company, Magpul Industries, a high-tech manufacturer of polymer and composite firearms for military and law enforcement applications, formerly stamped every weapon with “Made in Boulder, Colorado.” However, the company which also offers training and consulting in firearm use, after a prolonged battle with anti-gun forces in the Colorado state legislature over a bill which made many of the products it produces illegal, decided to move its manufacturing operations to Cheyenne, Wyo., and its corporate offices to an undisclosed location in Texas.
Winchester Repeating Arms, another old-line firm that remains a hallowed part of American folklore, has had a rather turbulent and complicated history due to some unfortunate corporate decision beginning in 1964.
More recently, the company which had built guns in New Haven, Conn., for 140 years, announced in August, 2008 that it entered into an agreement with Browning to produce some of their rifles in Japan and more recently announced that it will produce its Model 70 rifle in Columbia, S.C.
Even more recently, James River Armory — a restoration company primarily involved in re-enactment and vintage weapons (the firm was personally contacted by Tomes during the convention) will soon be moving their manufacturing operations from Halethorpe, Md., to somewhere in South Carolina. Lewis Machine and Tool, otherwise known as LMT, also recently announced it is moving from Milan, Ill., to nearby Davenport, Iowa.
Tomes correctly predicts that as more anti-gun legislation and grass roots harassment occurs across the country — and, more specifically within Illinois — more relocations will occur.
It has been predicted for several years that Gov. Pat Quinn’s support for a ban on assault weapons, high capacity magazines and ammunitions purchases might negatively affect employment in Northwestern Illinois. But that is not the only thing to consider.
In recent months, many observers have also predicted that Illinois’ onerous system of corporate taxation will place it at a competitive disadvantage with other states. Currently, Illinois has a flat 7 percent corporate income tax, a personal property replacement tax and a corporation franchise tax. With the exception of sole proprietorships, most businesses throughout the state will be subject to at least one if not all of these taxes. Additionally, if personal income passes to an individual through a business, that income will be subjected to taxation yet again on your personal tax return.
At the present time, there are numerous major firearms manufacturers remaining in neighboring Illinois and other anti-gun states. Among them, Springfield Armory, one of the largest manufacturers and importers in the world, and Armalite are both located in Geneseo, Ill., and Rock River Arms is in Colona, Ill. DPMS Panther is located in nearby St. Cloud, Minn. Sturm, Ruger & Co. the fourth largest firearm manufacturer, remains in Southport, Conn., Colt Manufacturing is in Hartford, Conn., and Smith & Wesson continues to operate in Springfield, Mass.
In the 2012-2013 session of the General Assembly, there were two resolutions that passed the Senate Rules & Legislative Procedures Committee and the full House of Representatives on the same day. The resolutions specifically asked the IEDC to begin recruitment efforts of small arms manufacturers. Supported by Tomes, Senator John Waterman, R-Sullivan, and others, the resolution promoted Indiana’s tax climate and gun ownership laws to be used as tools to approach firearm manufacturers across the country. The resolution passed the Rules Committee by an 11-0 vote and the similar language passed the House by a voice vote.
During the recently concluded session of the General Assembly, Tomes and Waterman both met with IEDC officials and Gov. Pence in his office but Tomes claims he has seen little in the way of any change in policies with IEDC.
With firearms and related manufacturers amounting to over $80 billion in annual sales, many state legislators and business interests would dearly love to recruit some of these firms to Indiana. Unfortunately, the IEDC does not seem very interested, as their absence at the NRA convention suggests.
David Coker is an Evansville freelance writer. Contact him at   ©


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