Manufacturing Continues Growth

Sunday, May 01, 2016

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If you build it, they will come. This hopeful phrase has been part of the driving force behind manufacturing, technology and business parks around the state. These properties, often built on spec with local and state development dollars, have paid off when it comes to attracting major players in weapons manufacturing.

In 2013, Colorado proposed sweeping changes to gun control laws. MAGPUL INDUSTRIES officials decided it was time to move. The company left its Erie, Colorado, operations and moved to Cheyenne. It relocated its administrative offices to Austin. The manufacturing facility, located in the Cheyenne Business Park, was able to move in relatively quickly and resume production on January 12, 2015.

Magpul makes accessories for firearms like ammunition magazines, butt stocks, hand guards, grips and light mounts. It also makes wrenches, field cases for cell phones, ball caps and shirts.

Originally operating in almost 90,000 square feet of the building that used to house window manufacturer Jeld Wen, Magpul plans to expand into the remainder of the building, bringing its total space to 185,000 square feet. The company has also exceeded employment expectations with over 180 employees now working there. About 25 of these employees came from Colorado; the rest of the positions have been filled by the local labor force. The company chose Cheyenne as its new home because it fit their needs from a manufacturing standpoint, but the cultural environment also suited their products. The building is owned by Laramie County and managed by Cheyenne LEADS, the local nonprofit economic development agency. As an incentive, Magpul will pay only operating costs and taxes on the building for the first four years. Payments from the 15-year lease will go back to Cheyenne LEADS and the Wyoming Business Council to reinvest in other economic development projects.

Meanwhile, the City of Laramie used a $2.4 million grant and $520,000 loan to build a 20,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Laramie River Business Park II for HIVIZ , a manufacturer of fiber-optic gun sights, recoil pads and other shooting accessories. The company’s operations from Arizona, Utah and Colorado were consolidated in Laramie. Manufacturing began in June of 2015.

HiViz came to Wyoming with around 20 employees but was planning to expand before the move was announced. Now that the move is completed, more employees are expected to be needed within a year. An additional facility in the near future is also a possibility.

Laramie Economic Development Corporation, the local economic and business development organization that merged with the local chamber of commerce in 2014 to become Laramie Chamber Business Alliance, followed up the HiViz win with the relocation of MAVERICK AMMUNITION which is part of the AMMO KAN family. Maverick Ammunition manufactures target- grade ammunition and ammunition for hunting. It also manufactures tactical-grade ammunition for use in law enforcement.

An estimated 50 employees were hired from the local workforce for a range of jobs from entry-level warehouse positions to distribution managers. Wyoming Department of Workforce Services’ training grants were an attractive benefit to the company when the move was being considered.

Ammo Kan remodeled an existing building west of downtown Laramie with good access for trucks. Product expansion in Wyoming, including producing firearm components, is part of future plans. A local showroom is also a possibility.

“Laramie has been focused on recruiting technology companies and successful in doing so. We now need to continue to diversify our economy further and lately have been working on trying to attract manufacturing companies,” says Dan Furphy, president and CEO of Laramie Chamber Business Alliance.

In August, TUNGSTEN HEAVY POWDER & PARTS also announced intentions to move to Laramie River Business Park II. The company is a supplier of tungsten components for military, industrial engineering and medical markets worldwide. It is moving its China- based production operation to Laramie. The plant will produce tungsten fragments and penetrators to be sold globally to military weapons and armament manufacturers. The state-of-the-art operation will use both automation and about 25 employees. The plant will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Higher employment numbers are expected as the facility is established and contracts increase.

“The expansion to a new facility in Wyoming is evidence of Wyoming’s ability to be a competitive place in the nation for manufacturing,” said Ben Avery, director of the Wyoming Business Council’s Business and Industry Division. Wyoming was one of five states considered for the plant’s relocation. Owner Joe Sery credits a visit to San Diego by Avery and Brandon Marshall, manager of business recruitment and development, for making Wyoming his top choice.

“When they got on the plane and came to see me, I was really impressed,” Sery says. “That showed that they took it very seriously.” State and local economic development officials took Sery on tours of 13 proposed sites in Wyoming this summer. The university town appealed to the manufacturer.

Tungsten Heavy Powder and Parts will work with the Business Council and Laramie Chamber Business Alliance as the company considers its options for building an approximately 10,000 square foot office and manufacturing facility.

The culture that attracted these new facilities is part of Wyoming’s heritage. A state with a Cowboy Code and a mostly hands-off approach to legislating industry seems like a safe place for arms manufacturers to move when they find their industry under fire. But not everyone in the industry is a transplant.

Wayne Baker and Dick Casull founded FREEDOM ARMS in 1978. In part, they wanted to give the youth of Star Valley an alternative to agricultural work. The firearm manufacturer is known across the country for high quality, hand crafted revolvers. Now run by Bob Baker, Freedom Arms keeps around 15 employees and sells handguns around the world.

Large and small companies, making large and small arms, are a growing part of Wyoming’s economy. The private investment, paired with preparation of manufacturing sites by the public sector, have resulted in quality partnerships that benefit the communities and companies. It’s an economic development strategy that is proving to be right on target.

Category: Success Stories