PTR Industries and Horry County are still hashing out a revised lease payment plan after the gun manufacturer fell in arrears by more than $73,000.
PTR has already offered a $10,158 payment for the accrued debt and offered a proposal with three components: Add 50 percent, or $4,791.67 to its current rent payment from July to December; the company makes two additional lump sum payments to the county totaling $33,206.22 by the end of the year; and the county agrees that, upon payment of all the arrearage that it will waive the existing late charges and penalties.
The county has yet to officially respond to the proposal.
A PTR official said the market-inventory cycle combined with the company’s moving expenses when it was lured to South Carolina from Connecticut contributed to financial troubles.
Josh Fiorini, chief executive officer for PTR, said his company provided a payment plan proposal to the county, which has yet to respond to the proposal.
“The truth of the matter is, the county rent issue is one of the very, very last issues that we have left to solve as the legacy of last year’s troubles,” Fiorini said. “As a result, it’s very manageable for us at this point.”
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 states that county officials have tried to work out a payment plan with the company but haven’t received any payments since March 23.
“It’s no secret, we had a lot of trouble last year,” Fiorini said. “The market-inventory cycle combined with our moving expenses made things very, very difficult for us.”
PTR, which manufactures military-style rifles, abandoned the Nutmeg State when lawmakers there enacted new gun policies. Connecticut leaders passed that legislation in response to the Sandy Hook school massacre in December 2012. The company’s move generated national attention and Gov. Nikki Haley was on hand to welcome PTR to Aynor. It prompted Horry County to offer incentive money for the company if it met employment goals. The goals have not been met and the incentive money has not been issued.
Along with its county bills, PTR has struggled to pay some of its vendors, according to court records. Judgments and lawsuits state that the company owes more than $80,000 to four businesses.
However, Fiorini said PTR has been profitable since the fall, and has been paying down accounts since then. He said it has been a linear process in the right direction since the fall. He said he believes communication with the county has been “very consistent” and the message is clear: Jobs first, but don’t forget about the rent.
Mark Lazarus, chairman of Horry County Council, said council has yet to talk about Fiorini’s counter proposal and said he knows the county is open to adjusting the terms.
“We’ll look at it in the future,” Lazarus said. “It was supposed to go to a lease/purchase deal, but it’ll probably just go to a straight lease deal, so the number will be a lot lower for them.”
Fiorini said the company is through the hard part.
“We feel the future of the company is still bright,” Fiorini said. “Last summer, I was nervous. I’m not going to lie. I was doing my best to keep going and to keep things above water. At this point in time, I’m not. It’s really just a matter of a short amount of time before all of these challenges are behind us. The liabilities that we still have are down to a very manageable level.”
He said the challenge last year was PTR’s distribution pipeline was filled with inventory, so getting its products to the consumer was a challenge. Fiorini said the inventory has since cleared and its brand new sales are back to “healthy levels.”
“I feel more confident about the position of the business today, honestly, maybe than I ever have,” Fiorini said. “In 2013, before we moved and when we were looking to move, things were looking very good at the time. But we were aware that the inventory cycle would hit at some point. None of us thought it would be as bad as it was, but we knew it was coming at some point.”
Lazarus said keeping PTR is a combination of them providing jobs, and the county providing a fair lease.
“He’s got to make up his rent,” Lazarus said. “We’re not forgiving his arrearages. There’ll be some kind of document in place where if they don’t meet that agreed upon arrangement, then it’s a quicker process for them to move out and be able to move somebody in.”
Fiorini said finding a new tenant won’t be necessary.
“We feel like we’re almost at the finish line,” Fiorini said.
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or on Twitter @TSN_JRodriguez.