Gun manufacturer apparently not moving to Myrtle Beach area

A firearms manufacturer that said it was going to expand its manufacturing operation to Horry County apparently will not.

Ohio-based Ithaca Gun Co. did not reply to a county incentive offer by the Monday deadline, Brad Lofton, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp., said at a Wednesday morning meeting of the group’s executive committee.

“As of this time, unless they come back to us, it’s off the table,” said Mark Lazarus, Horry County Council chairman.

The gun company could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Lazarus said that about four weeks ago, the company told area officials that it wanted a facility where it could house both Ithaca Gun and Dlubak Glass Co., which have the same owner.

Lazarus said that Ithaca previously told the county that it was planning to locate the glass recycling operation in Marion County, and he assumed that deal fell through.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued more than 60 citations against the glass company’s plants in Pennsylvania and Arizona primarily for violating environmental standards for lead exposure.

Lazarus said he believed that neither council members nor the public would have supported rezoning land designated for the gun company so that glass recycling could occur there as well.

Ithaca Gun had said it planned to create 120 jobs when it began an operation in Horry County.

It was to have been the second firearms manufacturer to establish operations in Horry County.

Earlier this year, PTR Industries opened its new headquarters operation in the Cool Springs Business Park near Aynor.

PTR has just laid off eight employees and cut managers’ pay by 10 percent because of a lessening of demand for firearms nationally.

EDC executive committee member Jimmy Yahnis said that gun manufacturers have come to Horry County saying they had a huge backlog of orders, and that makes him puzzled about the current situation.

“To me it doesn’t make sense,” Yahnis said. “One’s losing jobs and the other one’s off the table.”

Lazarus said that orders for PTR’s guns have caused its output to drop from 9,000 per month to 1,200 per month. He said that orders soared last year amid talk of laws to limit gun ownership, but that has dropped off.

There is now a glut of unsold firearms, particularly from large manufacturers such as Remington, and they have lowered prices to reduce inventory. Companies like PTR can’t compete with the lowered prices, he said.

But the inventory is being reduced, and Lazarus hopes PTR will be back at full employment within months.

“It’s like the real estate industry,” said Neyle Wilson, president of Horry Georgetown Technical College and an executive committee member.

Lazarus said PTR still has significant contracts that it is working to fill that ensures the company’s future.

“It’s not like a crisis,” he said of PTR’s situation.

PTR, formerly of Connecticut, decided to move its operation elsewhere after the state legislature passed a law banning the sale of the kind of guns PTR makes. Horry County also continues to talk with Stag, another Connecticut firearms manufacturer interested in relocating.

As for Ithaca, Lazarus said he heard that the company had complained to the governor’s office that Horry wouldn’t rezone the land and that it was costing South Carolina jobs. He said he talked with the governor’s office to set the record straight.

Lazarus said the county had explored the idea of building a large, enclosed building at or near the Horry County Landfill to house the glass operation.

Lofton said he hadn’t talked with anyone from Ithaca for about three weeks. He said that the EDC and county would be willing to renegotiate terms should the company renew its interest.

But the money set aside for incentives in the previous contract could not be held in abeyance permanently.

“We don’t have unlimited resources,” he said.

If that money can be used somewhere else, he said, it will be.