Thermold Magazines, a maker of firearms products and accessories, said Tuesday that it’s moving its headquarters from North Carolina to Fort Smith, bringing 65 new jobs.
The company uses injection molding to manufacture firearms magazines used by civilians, law enforcement and the military. At an event at the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, company officials said it will operate in 10,000 square feet of space at the 130,000-square-foot River Bend Industries plant in Fort Smith.
River Bend will make the magazines, and Thermold will assemble and distribute them.The two companies combined are expected to add about 65 new jobs as a result of the move and invest $7 million.
“It’s a unique marriage. It makes sense,” Sylvan Bednar, president of Thermold Magazines, said about working with River Bend.
Ron Embree, CEO of River Bend, said the new jobs will pay an average of $15 an hour.He said the plant’s workforce size varies, but currently it employs about 85.
Thermold began operation in the 1960s as a molded plastics maker, first targeting the automotive industry, according to the company’s website. Using a nylon resin called Zytel developed by DuPont, Thermold began to make magazines for firearms that were resistant to heat and corrosion.
River Bend molds thermoplastics and engineering resins. The company operates the Fort Smith facility and two operations in Iowa with a total of 108 molding machines and 444,000 square feet of manufacturing space.
Todd Michael, the vice president of global sales for Thermold, said the shift to Fort Smith is part of the company’s long-term strategy to expand its presence in the western part of the U.S. He said Fort Smith was centrally located and met the company’s infrastructure needs.
Some firearms companies and magazine makers have said they would leave their home states as a result of more restrictive firearms legislation. Colorado-based Magpul said it would relocate after its home state passed laws limiting purchases of magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. Pistol maker Kahr Arms moved its corporate headquarters from New York to Pennsylvania to protest New York’s newest gun and ammunition-limit restrictions.
Michael said the company would begin operations in the next 60 days and begin hiring sometime in the first quarter of 2014. He said the move to Fort Smith was purely a business decision.
Joe Holmes, a spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said incentives for the deal included an income-tax credit of 1 percent of payroll for new jobs for five years; sales-tax refunds on building materials and some machinery and equipment associated with the project; and $500,000 from the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund to go toward new molds for Thermold Magazines, along with updates to the River Bend facility.
Gov. Mike Beebe said the U.S., once known for its manufacturing strength, suffered when companies began to send jobs overseas in search of cheap labor and lower production costs. He noted Fort Smith, a manufacturing center, had suffered in particular from the trend.
Whirlpool Corp., which once employed 4,600 workers in Fort Smith, closed its plant in June 2o12, resulting in the loss of about 800 jobs that still remained. The plant is still vacant.
River Bend was a supplier to Whirlpool, and the company was a major client, Embree said.
The Fort Smith Metropolitan Statistical Area had an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent in July, down from 8.4 percent for the same period lat year. The state’s average unemployment rate was 7.4 percent in July. The statistical area includes Sebastian, Crawford and Franklin counties in Arkansas and Le Flore and Sequoyah counties in Oklahoma.
Beebe said recently there have been indications the country’s manufacturing sector is rebounding, noting Americans want to buy products made by Americans. He pointed to an initiative by Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to purchase an additional $50 billion in U.S.-made products over the next 10 years as a positive sign.
“As manufacturing rebounds, Fort Smith can and will rebound,” Beebe said.
The Thermold Magazines announcement is the second by the state’s firearms industry in recent weeks. In early August, Remington Arms Co. of Lonoke said it planed to hire50 to 100 workers as part of a $32 million expansion. Production is expected to begin in the 35,000-square-foot building in June, according to the company.
In November 2012, Walther Arms Inc., the U.S. unit of German gun maker Carl Walther GmbH, moved its headquarters to Fort Smith. Walther Arms Inc. and Umarex USA are private companies owned by Arnsberg, Germany-based PW Group. Both companies share space in the Chaffee Crossing development.
Business, Pages 27 on 09/11/2013
Print Headline: Gun-accessory firm moving to state