Skip to comments.Idaho Aims For Job Growth Through Gun Manufacturing
Posted on 08/29/2012 8:28:05 AM PDT by marktwain
A few years ago, state leaders got the idea to promote Idaho to the outdoor industry, including gun manufacturers. After all, Idaho is a more firearms-friendly place than most. More than half of Idahoans own guns, and state law shields firearms manufacturers from liability.
One North Idaho town Potlatch is honing its pitch to attract the gun industry and jobs. Local economic development official BJ Swanson is key to the effort. Not long ago, Swanson drove through an overgrown patch of ground on the outskirts of Potlatch, population 800. Its a humble spot, but in it she sees the towns future and its past.
This is part of the main mill here, the concrete relics that you see, she says, as she points out the window. Shes gesturing toward a crumbling cement structure, protruding from tall grass. Its all thats left of a sawmill that was once one of worlds largest. Now, Potlatch needs a new plan. And it has one.
Guns are going to be manufactured somewhere, she says. Why not here?
Local officials envision a mix of commercial, industrial, retail and residential space, built where the mill once stood. If all goes well, it will revolve around so-called recreation technology. The term functions as a euphemism for the gun industry, though local leaders want to attract related businesses, too. The idea took hold last fall, after ammunition-maker PNW Arms moved from the Seattle suburbs to small-town Idaho.
If I was working for any other firearms manufacturer in any other part of the country, and the question came up, How could we do our business better? I would suggest Idaho as a place to relocate.
Its a fervent endorsement that comes from PNW Arms vice president of sales and unofficial spokesman, Fred Newcome. He says the number of available workers who are knowledgeable and passionate about guns was one factor in PNW Arms move to Potlatch.
The company has a consumer line, but it also has higher-profile clients, like the Department of Defense. Newcome is proud to say that cutting-edge ammunition comes out of PNWs new home.
We have literally innovated some things that you cant find anywhere else, he says. There are munitions being produced here that you dont know about and wont know about and are really changing the way small arms are utilized in warfare.
Think: bullets that work underwater. Thats a main project.
This interview with Newcome might seem pretty normal, but there were things that set it apart. First, Newcome and I talked in PNW Arms waiting area. For security reasons, I wasnt allowed beyond that point. Second, the conversation was supervised by a company official who asked that his name and title remain off the record.
Then, there were the companys guard dogs. They had been moved to another room before I arrived. But when it was decided I could meet the nicest of them, the dog took one look at me and issued a long, low growl.
Hes the leader of our pack, here, for our security team, Newcome said, chuckling.
The dogs name is Almash, and hes a Hungarian Kuvasz, a breed historically used to fend off wolves. The unnamed company official jokes that Almash ate the last two journalists who came to visit.
Each of these little departures from the way radio interviews usually go is a reminder of a simple fact: stories about guns carry an automatic charge. Newcome and I met only hours after last months mass shooting in Aurora, Colo. Its all but impossible to separate firearms from the passionate political views they inspire.
Department of Commerce Director Jeff Sayer acknowledges that point, but steers clear. I dont have an answer from a philosophical standpoint, he says. What I do know from a strategic standpoint: having arms manufacturers and ammunition manufacturers makes a lot of sense for the state.
Idahos Commerce Department embarked on a recreation technology recruitment campaign in 2008. The idea was to create clusters of related businesses. Little by little, Sayer says, the state has seen companies move in. Now, Potlatch is attempting to pick up that ball and run.
I think every community has to find their niche, Sayer says, and has to find something that can set them apart, and give them a story to tell to the outside world.
One of Idahos stories to the outside world is its open embrace of firearms. A state statute limiting lawsuits against gun and ammunition manufacturers is more restrictive than most. Federal records show 180 manufacturers in the state, including PNW Arms.
At the end of our interview, Newcome offers a shooting lesson. The gun is an M4.
This is a fully automatic weapon youll see in use by any of your tier one teams. Your Seals, your Rangers, your Force Recon guys all use a weapon similar to this, Newcome tells me.
This is another of Idahos main draws: the ease of testing ammunition. Theres no need to drive for hours to an open stretch of land. All weve done is walk outside behind the shop, where theres a target set up.
Like Idahos Commerce Director, PNW Arms prefers not to get mired in the politics of its profession. By choosing Idaho, the company is taking the path of least resistance.
Others appear to be following their lead.
Last week, BJ Swanson says, Washington-based Eagle View Arms committed to moving to Potlatch. Theyre a firearms accessories manufacturer, and theyre small three employees but they plan to grow.
I’d have look up Potlatch, but if they have the industrial base there, along with the resouces and infrastructure, along with a gun friendly enviroment, I would say “why not?”. I’ve been to places in the US where you wouldn’t possibly imagine there being a high end manufacturing plant being located. Those places thrive because of our know-how and ingenuity.
If so, at least in theory, machine guns can be manufactured and sold in the state, to stay in the state, WITHOUT Class 3 forms or federal tax stamps. Can't wait for somebody to take this law out for a spin, and see the ATF jackbooted thugs face the Idaho National Guard.
Love ya, Idaho.
It's a booming business to be in. ;-)
Well, we (Idaho) already have a healthy number of bullet, ammunition, and NFA manufacturers; only makes sense to add firearm makers too :-)
I imagine that after state laws and taxes, the next big concern to gunmakers are the supplies and transportation, resources and infrastructure they need for their business and employees.
Just one missing element could become a major pain.
It also takes a heck of a long time for federal permits, from a dozen agencies, including but not limited to BATF and Treasury, EPA, OSHA, Labor, DHS, and a bunch of others who will want to horn in.
Almost guaranteed there will be litigation over who knows what all.
But firearms, here? There must be some mistake. Officer.
Oopsie - that’s Plummer I was talking about where the Potlatch mill has a big operation. The town by that name is 17 miles from here. Different place. Same opportunity.
Didn’t Idaho develop the potato-gun?
Didn’t Idaho develop the potato-gun?