After several years, economic development efforts have attracted an occupant for the shell building in the Cool Springs Business Park near Aynor. The only building in the industrial park will be the home of PRT Industries, a firearms manufacturer that is moving here from Connecticut.
In addition to occupying the building, empty since its construction six years ago, PRT will hire approximately 120 workers locally, including machinists and computer-controlled machine operators -- skilled jobs that will help boost the average hourly rate of pay in Horry County. The company’s vice president of sales, John McNamara, said after ceremonies last week at Aynor Town Hall, that PRT had received more than 200 emails from potential job applicants.
One can easily imagine that PRT will receive many more applications than it has positions to fill. Some otherwise qualified job candidates may need training, and McNamara pointed out that the state of South Carolina has promised to create the training needed. Manufacturing firearms is far more complicated than the production work of many Horry County employers.
The types of jobs at PRT are one of the very things that make the company’s relocation exciting. The gunmaker fits with South Carolina’s role as a leader among U.S. states in a manufacturing renaissance.
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“Manufacturing GDP [gross domestic product] in South Carolina grew 8.5 percent last year compared to the 7.8 percent U.S. rate,’’ S.C. Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt said, quoting a report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis
The S.C. manufacturing sector has grown for three straight years, along with U.S. manufacturing. The state has attracted more than 23,000 jobs and $9 billion in capital investment in the past two and a half years. “I think this shows that South Carolina is outrunning our peers in manufacturing and that we’re successfully growing the manufacturing economy in our state,’’ Hitt says.
PRT Industries CEO Josh Fiorini didn’t simply awaken one morning and decide to move the business. At Aynor Town Hall, he said he’s still angry about why he is moving. In the aftermath of the Newtown Elementary School shooting, the Connecticut General Assembly outlawed the types of firearms -- known as assault rifles -- made by PRT.
“We were forced into this,’’ Fiorini told the crowd of several hundred people, including Gov. Nikki Haley. He added that he’s no longer sad about leaving Connecticut and has found the support here “truly humbling and encouraging.’’
Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach, deserves credit for visiting PRT in Connecticut as well as another manufacturer, Stag Arms, and the firms’ suppliers. Representatives of Stag Arms visited here Thursday to examine potential sites.
While some area residents may be less than thrilled about wooing gunmakers to Horry County, the fact is, the guns will be made somewhere and their manufacture here won’t have an impact on the number of guns owned, or used here.
It will, however, have an impact on the number of jobs here.
South Carolina is a gun-friendly state, and one that is being aggressive in growing the state economy in general and manufacturing in particular.
Despite widely varied views about guns and their use, arms manufacturing has a long tradition in America and in South Carolina, including established gun manufacturers in Camden, Columbia, Florence, Jackson and Pickens.
As Hitt says: “South Carolina makes things and makes them well.’’