S.C. leaders aim to lure gun makers

Josh Fiorini, CEO of gun maker PTR Industries, was on hand Monday as Gov. Nikki Haley welcomed his company to South Carolina at an event at Aynor Town Hall.

Janet Blackmon Morgan

In the wake of the fatal shooting of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December, several states, including Connecticut, moved to tighten their gun laws.

By the end of January, U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., was inviting gun manufacturers who now felt unwelcome in their home states to move to South Carolina.

Now June, the Southern migration seems to be on.

Last week, PTR Industries, a Bristol, Conn.-based rifle maker announced it would relocate its manufacturing operations and a corporate headquarters from Bristol to Aynor in Horry County.

Welcomed by Gov. Nikki Haley at a ceremony Monday, the company is expected to bring 145 jobs to the state. The S.C. Coordinating Council for Economic Development approved job development credits to incentivize the move.

In a written statement, the company also pointed to the S.C. Senate’s S.649, titled “A Senate Resolution to encourage Businesses and Firearms Manufacturers from out-of-state to locate in the Palmetto State,” as a reason it picked South Carolina over other states.

Then Thursday came news that another Connecticut gun maker, New Britain-based Stag Arms, is considering relocating to the Palmetto State.

According to the Fox TV affiliate in Hartford, Conn., Stag Arms CEO Mark Malkowski, who has also talked to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, was scheduled to meet with South Carolina business officials to tour the PTR site near Myrtle Beach.

South Carolina’s top business official, Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt, declined to confirm or comment on Malkowski’s visit or any other corporate prospects Thursday. But he did note the state has long been home to an arms industry and said he would welcome additions to it.

“We’re very open to gun companies in South Carolina as we have been,” Hitt said. “We’ve been in the gun business for a third of a century here. We have well-known craft capability in South Carolina in that area.”

He cited Columbia-based FN Manufacturing, where several hundred employees make and assemble parts for military weapons, as an example.

The state has been targeting particular sectors, like aerospace suppliers at the Paris Air Show last week, but Hitt said “certainly there’s room for other companies to come here.”

“We’re not anymore focused on that type of manufacturing than others,” the former BMW executive said Thursday. “We’ll see what happens.”

Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 and follow him on Twitter at @kearney_brendan.