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Firearms industry grows in Wyoming

Wyoming holds dear the values of independence and personal responsibility.

The state boasts low taxes, sensible regulations, plentiful big game and vast open spaces.

In the last two years, that culture of limited government and outdoor living has attracted a number of firearms industry manufacturers to the Cowboy State.

The addition of Magpul Industries, HiViz Shooting Systems and Ammo Kan translates to hundreds of high-paying jobs, millions in private investment and a rapidly growing industry in Wyoming.

Firearms manufacturers have always found a home in Wyoming. Shady Lady Shooting makes gun accessories in Green River that cater to women. Gunwerks, Wyoming Armory and Freedom Arms build firearms in Burlington, Cody and Freedom.

“This is a good place to be. The state doesn’t restrict us,” said Bob Baker, co-owner of Freedom Arms. “The people appreciate this industry. They aren’t fighting against you.”

Baker’s father started Freedom Arms in 1978. The company manufactures single-action revolvers and a single-shot handgun. Freedom Arms employs 15 people.

Baker supported the influx of new firearms manufacturers to Wyoming.

“It’s nice to see business in general coming in,” Baker said.

HiViz was the first of these manufacturers to announce in May 2013 a move from Colorado to Wyoming.

HiViz makes rifle sights and other firearms equipment.

The company worked with Laramie’s economic development nonprofit and the Wyoming Business Council, the state’s economic development agency, to build a 20,000 square-foot warehouse and office space in the Laramie River Business Park II.

The Business Council provided a $2.9 million grant and loan package. HiViz provided $710,000 and agreed to create 20 jobs over the next three years.

Just six months after HiViz’s announcement, ammunition maker Ammo Kan also said it would move from Colorado to Laramie.

Operating as Maverick Ammunition, the manufacturer anticipated employing 50 people and remodeling an existing building.

The momentum continued after Magpul Industries, Colorado’s largest, most profitable firearms accessories manufacturer, also decided to move to Wyoming.

“Quite a few states courted Magpul,” said Carey Ryerson, director of manufacturing operations for Magpul. “After quite a bit of searching, really throughout the nation, we chose Cheyenne.”

To entice Magpul, the Business Council awarded Laramie County an $8.3 million grant to purchase a 185,000 square-foot warehouse in the Cheyenne Business Parkway. Magpul provided a $450,000 match and leases the building from Cheyenne’s economic development organization.

Once operations were underway in Cheyenne, Magpul received help from Manufacturing-Works, a Business Council partner agency. Manufacturing-Works helped Magpul more efficiently make and distribute accessories like rifle stocks and magazine.

The company agreed to create 91 jobs in three years. Magpul already has 270 workers. All but nine of them live in Laramie County.

Wyoming’s most recent recruit makes tungsten fragments and penetrators to be sold globally to military weapons and armament manufacturers.

California-based Tungsten Heavy Powder & Parts is moving some of its China production operations to Laramie. The company will hire 25 people to start, but owner Joe Sery expects to double the number of jobs during the next five years.

“So many businesses relocate their manufacturing overseas. That has been the trend for many, many years,” Sery said shortly after the announcement. “In this particular case, it’s the exact opposite. Parts being made in China are going to be made in the USA.”

The State Loan and Investment Board in December approved a $2.9 million grant to Laramie. The city will use that money to build a 15,500 square-foot facility for Tungsten.

Wyoming exempts sales tax on electricity used directly in the manufacturing process. Manufacturers are also exempt from sales tax on the sale or lease of manufacturing machinery used in the state.

The flurry of new firearms accessories and ammunition makers creates opportunities for Wyoming to expand its manufacturing base.

“The firearms and outdoor products industry continues to look to Wyoming as a natural place to expand operations,” said Shawn Reese, chief executive officer of the Business Council. “With our culture, workforce, low-cost tax structure and a business climate second to none, Wyoming remains the place to be, now and in the future.”

Magpul, HiViz, Maverick Ammunition and Tungsten have joined an existing firearms industry that already knows Wyoming is the best state in the nation in which to do business, he added. The challenge now is to make sure others know, too.

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