- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 2, 2014

ERIE, Colo. — Magpul Industries, a leading firearms accessories maker, will relocate its extensive manufacturing facilities to Texas and Wyoming in response to the Colorado legislature’s enactment of sweeping gun control legislation last year, the company announced Thursday.

At the same time, the company plans to maintain a toehold in Colorado to continue to fight the gun control bills passed by the Democrat-dominated General Assembly and signed in March by Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat.

“Moving operations to states that support our culture of individual liberties and personal responsibility is important,” said Magpul CEO Richard Fitzpatrick, who started the privately held company in 1999 from the basement of his home in Longmont, Colo. “This relocation will also improve business operations and logistics as we utilize the strengths of Texas and Wyoming in our expansion.”

The cost to Colorado’s economy, according to the company: $85 million in local economic activity and up to 400 supply-chain jobs.

Magpul officials plan to split the company’s corporate and manufacturing arms, which are now in Erie, Colo. The corporate headquarters will relocate to Texas, and a site-selection committee has narrowed the destination to three places in the state’s north-central region.

Meanwhile, Magpul’s manufacturing and distribution facility will move about 80 miles north to Cheyenne, Wyo.

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Company officials said they plan to lease a 58,000-square-foot building for two to three years while they construct a 100,000-square-foot custom facility as part of the Cheyenne Business Parkway.

Wyoming Gov. Matthew Mead, a Republican, said in a statement that “Wyoming and Magpul are a great match.”

“Bringing an innovative and growing manufacturing operating to Wyoming is a significant step for the state,” said Mr. Mead. “We offer Magpul an attractive tax environment, stable and reasonable regulations, not to mention a firm commitment to uphold the Second Amendment.”

The move is a particular coup for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican who openly wooed gun companies based in states considering restrictive laws to consider the Lone Star State as a base.

“As you consider your options for responding to unwarranted government intrusion into your business, you may choose to consider relocating your manufacturing operations to a state that is more business-friendly,” Mr. Perry wrote in an open letter to more than two dozen gun companies in February. “There is no other state that fits the definition of business-friendly like Texas.”

Mr. Perry said Thursday that he was “proud that Magpul is the latest employer to join the ranks of companies that call Texas home.”

In addition, Magpul, which is a plaintiff in the lawsuit filed by 55 Colorado sheriffs against the state law limiting ammunition magazines to 15 rounds, plans to retain “limited operations” in Colorado. About 92 percent of its workforce will relocate outside Colorado within 12 to 16 months, according to a company release.

“We made a commitment publicly that we would not abandon the law-abiding gun owners in our own state, and we want to honor that,” said Duane Liptak, Magpul director of product management and marketing.

Pushed out by new gun laws

None of this was on Magpul’s radar a year ago. In January 2013, the rapidly expanding manufacturer was planning to build a state-of-the-art facility in Broomfield, about 13 miles from its location in Weld County.

Everything changed when company officials realized that the Democrat-controlled legislature, prodded by out-of-state groups such as Mayors Against Illegal Guns, was moving forward with an ambitious package of gun control bills, including a bill to restrict ammunition magazine capacity. Other major motivating forces were two mass shootings in 2012, including a deadly attack by a lone gunman on an Aurora movie theater.

“We made the decision that if this package of bills passes, our company is going to be forced to relocate operations,” Chief Operating Officer Doug Smith said in an interview at the Erie corporate office.

It’s not every day that legislators run a successful business out of the state, which is what makes Magpul’s story so compelling. But after the gun incidents in 2012, state Democrats entered the legislative session determined to crack down on access to firearms and magazines.

But their bills were criticized as confusing and illogical. Magpul officials argued that the magazine bill’s original draft would have made it unlawful to manufacture some of its products or sell them outside Colorado.

Democrats attempted to address some of the company’s concerns by amending the bill and the governor issued a signing statement to clarify the intent, but that only worried company officials even more.

“[That] clearly exemplified in our mind that there was confusion around what the bill said,” said Mr. Smith. “Companies always have to work to manage and mitigate risk, and risk of this type we have to eliminate. Our concern going forward is that through rule-making or some other means, legislators would move the effect of the bill closer to the original language.”

Magpul’s leadership also was concerned that remaining in Colorado would be seen as a betrayal of its customers and its core values.

“We believe that personal freedoms are inextricably linked to personal responsibility, and to continue to be based in a state where law-abiding citizens cannot purchase our products would be a betrayal of those values and a betrayal of our customer base,” Mr. Smith said.

Innovative company

As soon as the bills were signed in March, Mr. Smith said Magpul officials drew up an analysis of states that met the company’s criteria, including “business-friendliness, political stability and respect for our company values: individual freedoms and personal responsibility.”

Texas and Wyoming emerged at the top of the list. Business and government officials in both states have welcomed Magpul, which employs about 200 people and manufactures polymer accessories for the military, law enforcement and recreational shooters.

Its first product was a simple plastic loop that would fit on a soldier’s gear and hold a magazine that could be easily pulled out — a “magazine pull,” nicknamed a “magpul.” Mr. Fitzpatrick, a former Marine Force Reconnaissance sergeant, designed the magpul based on his experience in the field.

The use of polymer instead of wood or steel has helped Magpul gain a reputation as an innovative firearms company. Its corporate offices, with their open spaces and no guns in sight, could just as easily house a software or Internet company. Magpul even makes an iPhone case, just because its designers and engineers weren’t happy with the ones they found on the market.

“We know that our opportunities down the road are very, very significant,” said Mr. Smith. “We want to achieve something beyond what we’ve already achieved, and diversifying geographically. The support that we’ve gotten from Wyoming and Texas, that’s a key part of what we’re going to do.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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