PTR Industries will release a new commemorative rifle next month with the hope that the firearm’s sales will help the Aynor gun maker pay off its debt to Horry County.
County officials and PTR leaders recently agreed to a repayment plan after the county threatened to evict the company from the Cool Springs Business Park if PTR did not pay the more than $73,000 it owed in overdue rent and late fees.
As part of that plan, PTR paid the county nearly $25,000 this month and will write checks for nearly $10,000 by Aug. 18 and Sept. 10, said county spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier. The final and largest payment of nearly $53,000 is due by Sept. 15. Those payments include the overdue amount as well as rent that will be accumulating.
“There’s still a few little hills to climb,” said PTR’s CEO Josh Fiorini. “But in general things are moving in the right direction.”
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$73,000Amount PTR owed Horry County in overdue rent and late fees
PTR, which manufactures military-style rifles, made a highly publicized move from Connecticut to South Carolina when Nutmeg State lawmakers enacted new gun policies in response to the Sandy Hook school massacre in December 2012.
Although the company received a warm reception from the Aynor community, Fiorini said the move cost nearly $600,000.
“That was a hurdle,” he said. “It’s something we knew was coming, but obviously the double whammy of that with last year’s sales downturn was what really made things tough.”
Instead of adding workers last summer, PTR laid off some staff. Company leaders insist the financial struggles stemmed from a distribution pipeline filled with inventory, meaning that getting guns to the consumer was a challenge. Fiorini said the inventory has since cleared and sales are back to normal levels.
The company also plans to bolster revenues with a new commemorative rifle. A limited edition South Carolina gun shored up company coffers last summer and PTR leaders hope this one will do the same.
The rifle is the same caliber gun the company unveiled in January and features the words “We the people” emblazoned on one side of the hand guard and “shall not be infringed” on the other. The gun also bears the state’s silhouette with a Palmetto tree inside the outline.
“We hope to actually introduce a S.C. commemorative edition of every new product that we introduce to the line,” said John McNamara, PTR’s executive vice president. “Something that the folks in South Carolina can call their own.”
In this case, the gun’s arrival comes at a critical time for the company.
“The funds that will come from this project are going to primarily be used to square up with the county,” McNamara said. “The timing kind of works out that way.”
Things are looking up...They’ve got a good business. They just took the same hit that everybody else took at a bad time. But I think they’re regrouping and have got a solid plan ahead.”
Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus
County officials sent a default notice to PTR on June 10 stating that the company had 30 days to pay its rent or the county would retake the building the company leases in the Cool Springs Business Park. The letter stated that county officials had tried to work out a payment plan with the company but hadn’t received any payments since March 23.
Since that letter was sent, Fiorini has met with county officials and worked out an agreement, which the CEO feels confident he can follow.
“We had a really good meeting with the county leadership,” he said. “The whole thing was very friendly and we made a pretty substantial down payment, so to speak, on the plan.”
The nearly $25,000 payment, Fiorini said, was partly to reassure Horry County Council members that the company remains committed to paying its debts.
Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said he feels comfortable with PTR’s new deal.
“Things are looking up,” he said. “They’re working hard. They’re good people. They’ve got a good business. They just took the same hit that everybody else took at a bad time. But I think they’re regrouping and have got a solid plan ahead.”
PTR paid Horry County nearly $25,000 this month and will write checks for nearly $10,000 by Aug. 18 and Sept. 10. The final and largest payment of nearly $53,000 is due by Sept. 15
Along with its county bills, PTR has struggled to pay some of its vendors, according to court records.
Fiorini said he hopes to have most of the debts paid by the end of September. He said he’s already written a check for the last invoice connected to the move.
“Relatively manageable” is how he described the company’s debt level.
The CEO also stressed that sales from the new caliber rifle are going well, he’s optimistic about the commemorative firearm and PTR recently saw a 50 percent increase in the number of firearms the company is making for another gun manufacturer.
As for staffing, PTR currently employs 50 full-time workers and six part-time staff. When the company originally agreed to move to Aynor, its leaders promised they would have 100 employees after three years and 150 within five.
Despite the setbacks, PTR officials expect to eventually reach that goal, though not as quickly as they had hoped.
“I do think we’re going to get there,” Fiorini said. “Without question, last year delayed that process.”