Gunmaker Smith & Wesson broke ground on its new home in East Tennessee last week alongside several state and local leaders, just weeks after announcing the decision to move.
The American manufacturer of firearms, ammunition, and restraints, founded in 1852, currently has corporate headquarters in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The company is investing more than $125 million to relocate its headquarters and some operations from Springfield to Blount County in Tennessee, a move that will create 750 jobs in the area, it said.
The groundbreaking ceremony took place on Nov. 5 at Partnership Park North in Blount County, which is 240 acres in size and will house both the company headquarters and its manufacturing operations, according to local reports.
Mark Smith, president and chief executive of Smith & Wesson, said he was looking forward to the move, but said it wasn’t an easy decision because it had to be right for today and for generations to come.
Announcing the decision in September, Smith said, “This has been an extremely difficult and emotional decision for us, but after an exhaustive and thorough analysis, for the continued health and strength of our iconic company, we feel that we have been left with no other alternative.”
The move comes following legislation recently proposed in Massachusetts that, if enacted, would prohibit the company from manufacturing certain firearms that are illegal to use in the state.
Sponsored by state Reps. Marjorie Decker and Frank Moran and state Sen. Cynthia Creem, the legislation (pdf) was filed in April and would put a ban on the manufacturing of “any assault weapon or large capacity feeding device” in the state unless it’s for the sole purpose of selling to law enforcement or military agencies.
“These bills would prevent Smith & Wesson from manufacturing firearms that are legal in almost every state in America and that are safely used by tens of millions of law-abiding citizens every day exercising their constitutional Second Amendment rights, protecting themselves and their families, and enjoying the shooting sports,” Smith said.
While Smith & Wesson remains hopeful that the legislation won’t be approved, the company said the ban on firearms manufacturing would affect up to 60 percent of its revenue compared to 2020.
“The unfortunate likelihood that such restrictions would be raised again led to a review of the best path forward for Smith & Wesson,” Smith said.
On Nov. 5, he reiterated that the decision to relocate had been a difficult one.
“We’ve got 170 years of history in Springfield, Massachusetts. … So, for us it was especially difficult,” Smith told reporters.
The company also cited a better quality of life for employees, more affordable living, the availability of qualified labor for its operations and headquarter functions, and a favorable location for efficiency of distribution as reasons for the move.
While Massachusetts is looking to clamp down on firearms manufacturing, Tennessee has moved to loosen gun restrictions in recent years under Republican leadership.
In April, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed the state’s constitutional carry measure into law, which allows most adults aged 21 and older to carry handguns without having to apply for a permit or go through a state-level background check and training.
Numerous lawmakers, including state Reps. John Gillespie and Mark White, both Republicans, opposed the measure.
On Nov. 5, Lee praised Smith & Wesson’s decision to move to Tennessee and said the multi-million-dollar investment will have a lasting effect on employment in the state.
“If you really want to change a family’s life then you insert into that family meaningful work. When people have a good job and make a good living for their family, then they’re generationally impacted,” he said.
Smith & Wesson will also close facilities in Connecticut and Missouri as part of consolidating in Tennessee, but the company stated that the move won’t officially begin until 2023, and it won’t have an impact on its employees’ jobs until then.
“Our loyal employees are the reason for our success and are always our number one priority,” the company said in a statement.