Ruger is expanding.
Sturm, Ruger & Co is in the process of opening a third production plant to expand manufacturing capacity, and company president and CEO Michael O. Fifer wants to do it quickly.
“We’re running out of space,” said Fifer in the company’s annual shareholder meeting on April 30.
According to Fifer, Ruger will use the new facility to build new lines of firearms, not to expand production of current firearms. Fifer stated he expects the new facility would build about ten completely new firearm lines.
To show how much growth Ruger has experienced, consider the number of employees employed at the Prescott, AZ manufacturing facility. On the weekly Gun Talk radio program, Ken Jorgensen, Director of Media Relations for Ruger, told host Tom Gresham that there were about 150 employees at the plant in 2008. Currently, there are about 750.
An existing, high-quality facility is what Ruger would like to find. “I don’t have any desire to build something,” said Fifer. He stated that there is more risk in building something, and he would prefer to get the new plant up and running “very quickly.”
Ideally, the facility would be of newer construction, about 250,000 square feet in size, and have a “phenomenal electrical [system] in it.” Fifer stated the company would prefer not to be in an industrial park.
Fifer said Ruger would like the plant to be in a community that supports the Second Amendment, has a skilled labor force and has a low incidence of crime and drug use.
Ruger has employed Greyhill Advisors of Austin, TX to assist with the search. Currently, three sites are under consideration, but additional sites can still be reviewed. The current sites are in North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. Texas, though, may have the edge.
Fifer stated the company had been in contact with Texas Governor Rick Perry’s office, and have discussed projections for the number of jobs that Ruger expects to create. A meeting was scheduled for Fifer and Perry at the NRA Annual Meetings in May, although the details of the meeting are not immediately available. Perry’s office has been quite active in bringing new business, especially firearms related businesses, to Texas.
At the shareholder meeting, Fifer stated he expects to hire 50-60 employees at the new plant immediately, with a total of 100 by the end of the first year. He stated that they anticipate they would hire an additional 100 people each year until the plant was fully staffed at 500 – 700 employees.
One of the ongoing problems Fifer cited for Ruger was difficulty in finding mechanical engineers to help the company advance new projects. Finding a community with a substantial number of engineers in the workforce would appear to be a priority for the company.
Fifer stated there are three “substantial” new gun projects that are “on ice” because they don’t have enough engineers to push development forward.
Based on the overall tone of the meeting, and Fifer’s statements, I would expect to hear an announcement from the company very soon on a site selection. I would not be surprised if the company has the new facility up and running by the end of 2013. That would put them into a position to announce new products at the SHOT Show in January 2014, and have the new manufacturing capacity to fill orders.