Remington Expands in Huntsville
Arms company plans will add 2,000 jobs in 'Sweet Home Alabama'
Alabama Gove. Robert Bentley and Remington CEO George Kollitides both seemed happy at the decision to move Remington's future to Alabama, a state whose motto is "We Dare Defend Our Rights." Jim Shepherd/OWDN photo.
"Sweet Home Alabama" is not Alabama's official state song. But you'd be hard-pressed to convince Remington officials who were in Huntsville, Ala., Monday to announce their decision to make an $87 million dollar investment there for "future corporate expansion" that the expression “sweet home Alabama" isn't woven into the very fabric of the state.
At a press conference attended by dozens of Alabama's elected and economic development officials, Remington CEO George Kollitides and Alabama Gov. Bob Bentley made the widely-known rumor official: Remington had selected Alabama as the location for their future expansion. An expansion that officials say will bring about 2,000 new jobs to the already-booming Huntsville area.
In his remarks, Remington CEO George Kollitides was careful not to call the decision to acquire a 500,000-square-foot high-tech manufacturing facility just outside the city a relocation. But he did say that in the selection process "Remington was careful about exploring all the options when considering what could be their home for our next 200 years."
That might be a telling statement concerning the company's future. Since 1816, Remington's official home has been regarded as Ilion, N.Y.
But passage of New York's SAFE act last year may have been the final ingredient that has created an environment too toxic to tolerate. Or at least too toxic to consider as a viable location for an American gun company.
"If you do business in a place with onerous regulations against you and your customers, or a highly unionized workforce, or a government that was constantly trying to regulate you out of business, you'd probably consider moving," one Remington official said after the announcement, "when you have all three, well, would you want to stay?"
Alabama Governor Bob Bentley: "We hold our values dearly, and we believe in the right to keep and bear arms." Jim Shepherd/OWDN photo.
Conversations like that make New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's insistence that "no jobs are leaving New York for Alabama" sound like either sour grapes or wishful thinking.
Unlike Cuomo, however, Gov. Bentley was all smiles at the chance to announce that his administration was bringing in another one of the world's best-known brands. And he didn't waste any time in telling the capacity-crowd of dignitaries and media in attendance at the announcement that Alabama's unwavering support of the Second Amendment was a major factor that swayed the ultimate decision.
"Alabama," Bentley said, "is conservative, and we hold our values dearly. We believe today is the beginning of a long partnership with Remington, a company that also has our values."
Presenting Kollitides with a commemorative gift -- a copy of the state seal -- Bentley went on to remind everyone in attendance that "Alabama's state motto says it all: 'We dare defend our rights.'"
Remington CEO George Kollitides: "We believe the defense of our rights is a duty to the nation. God bless America. God bless Alabama. God bless Remington." Jim Shepherd/OWDN photo
Echoing that sentiment, Kollitides said Remington, like Alabama, "believed the defense of our rights is a duty to the nation."
So with nearly half the states in the country trying to win the business, why Alabama?
According to Remington, the choice was based on a number of tightly-defined criterion.
But the ultimate factors were a well-trained and available labor force, the quality of life, and the costs of living and doing business. Another company official tells me there was also an unspoken value: common values and belief in individual rights, including the rights to own any Remington product.
But the common theme throughout the announcement was simple: Remington was coming to Alabama because Alabama wants the company located there.
Unspoken, but equally obvious, the fact that Alabama had to assemble a very aggressive package to bring the nation's oldest continually-operating manufacturing company to a state that has only recently become known for high-tech manufacturing.
An Alabama Department of Commerce report places the state incentive package at $38 million to help offset costs associated with retrofitting facilities and purchasing equipment and machinery associated with the operations. In total, Alabama incentives are $54.4 million, with the cities of Madison, Huntsville, and Athens, along with Madison, Limestone and Morgan counties also contributing to the overall package.
According to Alabama officials "Project Traveler" (the name under which the relocation was anonymously offered) received responses from twenty-four states, each making serious overtures to the "major corporation seeking a new location for expansion and future growth."
"Yesterday," Bentley told the crowd, "I received a call from a good friend of mine, Texas Gov. Rick Perry."
When the laughter died down, Bentley continued: "he told me he was certainly disappointed that Remington hadn't chosen Texas for their new home, but he certainly understood why they were going to Alabama. And he offered his congratulations to me - and his best wishes for Remington in Alabama."
In New York, there's no love-fest. In fact, the finger-pointing has begun in earnest. Rob Astorino, Westchester County (NY) Executive, has described the decision "another devastating blow to New York's economy that is already failing under Governor Cuomo."
"No matter how many millions Governor Cuomo spends trying to convince people New York is open for business, the truth is clear: we are a state that is losing."
Other New York elected officials are also taking their shots at a governor who made no secret of his feelings that guns, and the companies that manufacture them, aren't welcome in New York. Republican State Senator James Seward has been a critic of the Cuomo administration's SAFE Act from its inception.
"Now," Seward says, "just over a year later, we are no safer, a portion of the law has been found unconstitutional, other parts cannot be enforced, and Remington is expanding -- out of state."
Despite the "expansion" announcement, the Cuomo administration insists "none of the 1,300 jobs in Ilion will be lost." That's diametrically opposed to what a senior company official told me. "We will be relocating some jobs to Alabama," he said, "research and development will being relocating almost immediately."
"But," he continued, "we'll be hiring many more people than we'll be relocating."
The company is characterizing the move as "an expansion of capacity, production, and research, primarily because product demand has skyrocketed." If then, the corporate growth areas are being relocated, Remington may have made the business decision to stick with Ilion in a reduced capacity.
Today, it would be a tough job to find anyone (with the possible exception of Cuomo) convinced that Remington's Ilion facilities will be operating -- or staffed -- at anything approaching its current levels when the Alabama facility begins operations.