Storied firearms manufacturer, Smith & Wesson, has decided to leave Springfield, Massachusetts, its home for 169 years, to move to Knoxville, Tennessee. The anti-gun climate of Massachusetts, where the legislature is considering bills that would outlaw the manufacture of sporting rifles like those that generate much of Smith & Wesson’s revenue, has encouraged the company to look to friendlier ground. The Boston Globe reports:
The gunmaker Smith & Wesson, based in Springfield since it was founded in 1852, announced Thursday that it will move its headquarters to Tennessee, due to tough new gun manufacturing laws recently proposed on Beacon Hill.
The company said it will open a new headquarters and assembly plant outside Knoxville in 2023, a location it chose in part based on that state’s “unwavering support for the Second Amendment,” as well as lower costs of doing business.
“This has been an extremely difficult and emotional decision for us,” said CEO Mark Smith in a call with investors Thursday. “But after an exhaustive and thorough analysis, for the continued health and strength of our iconic company, we feel that we have been left with no other alternative.”
Smith & Wesson will shift about 550 jobs out of Springfield in the move, but will retain its manufacturing plant and roughly 1,000 employees there. The company will start work later this year on a new $120 million facility in Maryville, Tenn., that would house its corporate headquarters and new manufacturing plant. It’ll also close plants in Connecticut and Missouri, but keep one in Maine.
Bob Rolfe, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said Smith & Wesson first reached out in the spring about potentially expanding its manufacturing there, and said he believes the company was looking at about five other states as well. But it was his team, which is tasked with recruiting new businesses to the state, that first proposed the idea of a headquarters relocation during a dinner meeting in Tennessee, he said.
It was a long shot, he said, given that Smith & Wesson is a large, publicly traded company with a deep history in Massachusetts. But corporate headquarters, he notes, comes with executives who’ll participate in the community and philanthropic efforts. They’re worth a try.
“That’s a decision that nobody takes lightly,” he said. “Do we always convert an expansion for manufacturing into a new headquarters? I wouldn’t say our batting average is close to 1,000 percent . . . but if you win one, that is one more than you had the day before.”
And amid mounting pressure for tougher gun laws, Smith & Wesson has become increasingly controversial in deep blue Massachusetts, despite its long roots here. In 2018, students from across the state rallied outside the Springfield headquarters to call for stricter gun laws.
Massachusetts residents are already barred from buying the AR-15-style semiautomatic rifles, but the guns can be made here and sold across state lines. And in April, Democrats on Beacon Hill filed a bill to ban the manufacture of certain kinds of firearms unless they are intended for sale to the military or law enforcement. If passed, it would keep Massachusetts-made assault weapons out of the hands of all private citizens.
In its announcement Thursday, Smith & Wesson pointed to that bill — which it called “arbitrary and damaging” — as a major factor in its decision to leave Massachusetts. The company said the bill would block production of guns that account for more than 60 percent of its sales.
Action Line: If your state is preparing to ban firearms, it’s time to get your gun and training now. If your state has already restricted your Second Amendment rights, it’s time to look for a better America. Start with my Super States.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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