HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Remington's decision to move two gun production lines from New York to Huntsville is drawing sharp criticism from northern lawmakers who said their state's stringent gun laws are costing jobs.
The gun manufacturer announced Friday it would move production of its Bushmaster and R1 handgun lines to its new Alabama facility.
The Bushmaster, a semiautomatic weapon, is no longer allowed to be sold in New York unless it is modified.
Alabama's pro-2nd Amendment political climate is without a doubt an attractor to the Remington company.
Everyone knows in Alabama - we like our guns.
It's all well and good for our neighbors to the north to chide Alabamians and our lawmakers for what some characterize as a regressive, backwoods, homegrown approach to gun laws - but when it comes to losing jobs and growth to gun-toting southerners - that's a different story altogether.
While it most certainly will take some hefty renovations for the sprawling old Chrysler facility near Huntsville International Airport to accommodate Remington Outdoor Company, the business and political climates are already perfectly primed to welcome a major firearms manufacturer to move business here. Some New York leaders and lawmakers are sore over Huntsville's recent acquisition. The local business community's reaction to the recent squabblings? 'New York - why are you surprised?'
"They obviously want to know that they're wanted," said Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Chip Cherry, matter-of-factly. "And that the community and the state and the leadership of that state embraces them as a company and welcomes them."
Remington did not cite the New York regulations - known as the SAFE Act – in its announcement to move from New York to Alabama but the company had been one of the measure's harshest critics. The move will cost the company's Ilion, NY facility about 80 jobs.
"The feeling and the message that was being sent out was they didn't welcome that type of activity in their state so therefore you really shouldn't be surprised if that type of activity doesn't expand and grow in your state," Cherry responds.
Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, was quoted as saying, "I don't think moving Bushmaster and their pistol line this early in the process to Alabama bodes well.'' King went on to say, "I wouldn't doubt it's SAFE Act-related in a New York minute. The company made statements over and over again that when they bought the property in Huntsville, Ala., that having a manufacturing facility in a Second Amendment-friendly area means a lot to them."
"In Alabama, we embrace the 2nd Amendment Rights." Chip Cherry says though, it's not all about politics.
"They want to make a superior product and we are a great place to make a superior product because we are used to machining things to tight tolerances and a high quality with a great workforce," Cherry concludes.
"This was a strategic business decision to concentrate our resources into fewer locations and improve manufacturing efficiency and quality. We are working hard to retain as many people from the affected facilities as possible,'' Remington spokesperson Teddy Novin told the Buffalo News.
"For the first time in our almost 200-year history we will innovate, design, and build in one place," Novin said elsewhere.
The employment front is not the only sector reaping benefits from Remington's move to Huntsville. One local technical college says demand for Remington jobs - and the skills those jobs require - has their phones ringing off the hook.
"We receive now two to three phone calls a day of interest in what programs we might have that would be appropriate for the Remington facility," says John Reutter, Drake State Director of Planning & Resource Development. "Fortunately we have already done an analysis of their facility and manufacturing needs in terms of technical backgrounds of entry workers. We can't find a single program at Drake that can't fill some need that they might have."
Reutter says with an education from Drake State, you really can't go wrong in Remington's eyes. He says a facility of that size will require everything from nurses to chefs to HVAC and design specialists.
"We have programs in machining, we have programs in electronics, we have programs in hydraulics and pneumatics and robotics - everything we offer seems to fit exactly what we assess their needs to be," Reutter says proudly.
Drake's Director of Planning says the interest is also represented by diverse demographics. In addition to parents of high school students inquiring about associate programs available right after graduation, the employed and underemployed are also interested in gaining new skills. Drake also offers a special program to help veterans transition from military service to the civilian workforce.
"There's really not anybody that I can think of who wouldn't be eligible in some fashion or another to come and get upgraded training to get themselves ready for the next round of technologies."
Click here for more information on Drake State's technical programs.