Connecticut gun manufacturer eyeing Horry as new location

sjones@thesunnews.comMay 2, 2013 

— Horry County is one of six locations being considered as the new site for Bristol, Conn.-based, gun manufacturer PTR Industries.

If it locates here, said Josh Fiorini, co-owner and CEO, the company expects it would hire about 100 employees over two to three years. He said the company expects to have a firm decision by the end of this month and to begin the move this summer. The average wage, when factoring in managers’ salaries, would be $20 to $21 an hour with beginning shop jobs starting at $14 to $16 per hour and an average of $17.25 an hour.

The plant will have a total workforce of 140.

Brad Lofton, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Development Corp., said he contacted PTR the same day that he learned it was going to relocate. Within three days, he said, a visit to Horry County had been arranged.

Fiorini said company executives met with state and local economic development officials as well as the area’s political leaders and found them all accommodating. He said a round of golf at the Dunes Club, which he enjoyed, was part of the recruiting trip.

“We liked the area quite a bit,” he said.

Fiorini said that because of the high cost of doing business in the Northeast, many manufacturers there contemplate moves south and/or west where business and living costs tend to be lower. The company also is seeking an area with a motivated and trainable workforce and business-friendly state and local governments.

He said that besides the cost factors, PTR was looking for a place with a good quality of life.

“There are worse places to live than in a resort town,” he joked.

Fiorini said that Myrtle Beach’s location also would be favorable for the company’s new site because it shares East Coast values that its transferring employees would find familiar and easy to adjust to, a factor he believes will help with employee retention. The lack of an interstate road is just a minor factor to the company, he said. There are plenty of roads that can handle the truck traffic the company would generate.

Fiorini said that Connecticut’s passage of stricter gun laws following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., was the final push the company needed to relocate. He said there isn’t much sense manufacturing guns in a state where they can’t be sold.

If PTR decides to move to Horry County, it would be the second corporate headquarters to relocate to the county in a year. Greensboro, N.C., laminate manufacturer BauschLinnemann currently is building its new facility near Myrtle Beach International Airport.

Fiorini said he expects that more firearms manufacturers in what is known as Gun Valley will move from Connecticut within five years. He couldn’t say where others might move, but noted that they share vendors and suppliers that would make it convenient to relocate to the same area.

He said that the company was contacted by 41 states after it made its plans to relocate known, and has narrowed the states to six locations. He didn’t name the other five in consideration, but noted that the state of Kansas courted PTR actively. Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced publically that he was eager to bring the company to his state.

PTR issued a statement immediately following the Newtown massacre expressing the horror of the company and its employees at what happened.

The statement, which Fiorini said he wrote, said it was understandable that people would want to do something to lessen the chance that something like that would happen in the future. Generally, he is against limiting the sale of firearms, but said that if carefully crafted, a coalition of mental health and firearms experts could figure out a way to stop sales to mentally-handicapped people.

“It’s a complicated issue,” he said.

But it would need experts on all sides of the issue to develop a law that he believes would be fair to all and work.

New York, he noted, has written a law that forbids firearm sales to anyone who has ever taken any sleeping pills, a stipulation he believes is too strict.

“We support the proper use of our product by law-abiding citizens,” he said.

Fiorini said the company’s final choice could come to state and local incentives the company would be offered.

“We’re looking for anything and everything that would make the move easier” and facilitate future expansion, he said.

Lofton wouldn’t give details of state or local incentives that have been offered the company so far, but said some likely will involve the EDC’s closing funds which was set up specifically to help companies with relocation costs. State incentives typically include tax rebates based on the number of jobs created.

Lofton said that PTR won’t be eligible for any local fee in lieu of taxes incentives because it will move to an existing building, if it chooses Horry County for its new location. Lofton said the building officials showed to PTR executives is privately-owned and has been vacant for about two years.

But there are other incentives the EDC will seek that require the County Council’s approval, Lofton said.

“It’s a company that has a great reputation,” Lofton said. “They’re a great corporate citizen.”

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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