HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT) - A landmark deal that will bring gun manufacturer Remington Outdoor Company to north Alabama was the result of a "perfect recipe" of economic and cultural factors, officials told WHNT News 19 on Monday.
Remington CEO George Kollitides said an ideal list of factors made Huntsville the clear winner in a slew of candidates spread across 24 states, all vying to land a plant that's expected to bring 2,000 jobs to the area. Kollitides hailed Monday's announcement as a home run for his company, which will start operations at the old Chrysler plant on Wall Triana Highway in approximately 18 months. The deal means Remington will become Madison County's third-largest private employer.
Remington officials said north Alabama's low corporate tax rate and proven workforce of technical manufacturers got Huntsville on the radar right away, with those credentials being further enhanced by the state's traditionally firearm-friendly culture.
"As a longtime hunter and shooter, obvious pro-Second Amendment guy, I feel right at home," said Kollitides. "We found a pro-business environment, incredible workforce, pro-gun policies and an incredibly good existing infrastructure for us to take advantage of. The actual physical layout of the facility is really fantastic. It has some features that we don't have in our existing footprint."
Remington officials have been on site at the future plant for the last eight weeks. The New York-based company has been vocally critical of strict gun control legislation passed in its home state last year. The so-called "SAFE Act" bans the sale of some weapons and limits the amount of ammunition that can be loaded into a magazine. But Kollitides distanced Monday's announcement from the ongoing political battle in the Empire State, saying operations at the New York plant would remain as is for now.
"We're all disappointed by the Safe Act, frankly, we think it's unconstitutional," said Kollitides. "But that was not a driving decision-maker for us...this is really an expansion project for us, and Huntsville really provided us with the best opportunity for expansion."
Madison County Chairman Dale Strong said a late December handshake between Kollitides and Gov. Bentley outside his office solidified the high-profile deal that garnered national attention.
"After meeting the executives from Remington, I can tell you a handshake agreement was done right here on the [courthouse] square in downtown Huntsville," said Strong. "You start talking about 2,000 jobs, it's a gamechanger, there's no doubt about it... These are the kinds of jobs we're looking for. I think it does diversify your ship when we've got high-pay skilled labor."
Details on the type of firearms that Remington will manufacture in Huntsville have yet to be unveiled.
Sources told WHNT News 19 that other contenders for the plant were sites in south Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and Texas, among others. Remington declined to comment on other sites it considered. Gov. Bentley said Texas Governor Rick Perry called to congratulate him on the Remington deal earlier Monday.