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Tennessee releases new details about incentives offered to Smith & Wesson in HQ move

Smith & Wesson headquarters in Springfield, Massachusetts.
MASSLIVE.COM
Smith & Wesson headquarters in Springfield, Massachusetts.

New details are emerging on incentives gun-maker Smith & Wesson is receiving to relocate its headquarters from Springfield, Massachusetts, to Tennessee.

Smith & Wesson is receiving a $9 million economic development grant from the state of Tennessee, according to information posted this week by a state agency.

The more lucrative deal is with Blount County and two cities in the eastern part of the state. The company is committing $120 million to build its new facility, which the county will initially own.

"They'll lease it for $1 for the next seven years, when the contract expires in 2030,” said Jeff Muir, the spokesperson with Blount Partnership, an economic development agency involved in the deal. "And then at that time, they'll have the option to buy the property and all the assets for $1."

Smith & Wesson will also pay 40% of the taxes they would have owed if they owned the property, over the course of the seven-year lease. The gun-maker is also promising to bring more than 600 new jobs to Tennessee.

"It's the equivalent of a 60% tax break every year for the next seven years," Muir said. "Essentially what that does is allows companies ... to get off the ground a little bit. It lets them get employees in there, lets them get their operations running, because you just don't snap your fingers and have an operation like this start running immediately."

Muir also indicated talks to bring Smith & Wesson to Tennessee date back to early spring of 2020. He said the company had inquired about building a warehouse in Blount County in 2015, but ended up elsewhere.

Muir said when Smith & Wesson approached Tennessee about relocating there, the county was on their list of possible locations, and a deal was struck after company officials made a site visit.

In September, Smith & Wesson announced the relocation, which will affect hundreds of employees in Springfield. As a major reason for the move, the company cited pending legislation in Massachusetts that would essentially extend the state’s ban on assault weapons to manufacturers.

"While we are hopeful that this arbitrary and damaging legislation will be defeated in this session, these products made up over 60% of our revenue last year, and the unfortunate likelihood that such restrictions would be raised again led to a review of the best path forward for Smith & Wesson," Mark Smith, the company’s president and CEO, said in a statement at the time.

Some Massachusetts state lawmakers were skeptical about the reasoning, including House Speaker Ron Mariano and state Rep. Bud Williams of Springfield, who is a co-sponsor of the legislation.

The company said about 1,000 positions will remain in Massachusetts. The Springfield plant will be "reconfigured but will remain operational" – conducting "all forging, machining, metal finishing, and assembly of revolvers."

Muir said Smith & Wesson is slated to break ground on its new headquarters in Tennessee on Friday.

Copyright 2021 New England Public Media. To see more, visit New England Public Media.

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