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Friday, Mar 27, 2015

County woos gun company Sossamon fires off letter to Stag Arms, urges them to relocate


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BROOKSVILLE - The owner of a Connecticut weapons business is seeking to move out of that state because of restrictive gun control laws enacted after the Sandy Hook school massacre.

He is considering moving his company from New Britain, Conn., to an industrial park in Horry, S.C., near Myrtle Beach.

But if County Administrator Len Sossamon is successful, Stag Arms will be relocating right here to Hernando County.

In a letter to company CEO Mark Malkowski, Sossamon stressed the benefits of moving his weapons business to the industrial park and a more favorable economic climate.

"While I applaud your decision to look for a state which will provide a friendlier environment for your company and employees, I believe there is another state worthy of your consideration," Sossamon wrote in a June 24 memo.

Founded in May 2003 by Malkowski, Stag Arms has become one of the largest firearms manufacturers in the nation and specializes in AR-15s, used by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office and many law enforcement agencies across the country.

Eighty percent of Stag Arms' rifle parts are built in-house.

Sossamon pitched to Malkowski the benefits of the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport, the 7,000-foot runway, control tower and 2,300-acre county-owned industrial park that is serviced by rail and is adjacent to the Suncoast Parkway.

Sossamon included a list of incentives that Hernando County, Florida and the area has to offer.

Stag Arms employs about 25 people and intends to expand to more than 100.

Connecticut legislators this year passed some of the strictest gun laws in the country after a gunman using an assault weapon killed 26 people (20 of them children) at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last December.

The state is home to many of the country's leading gun manufacturers, many of whom have received scores of offers from other states promising them tax and other incentives to move to their areas.

Sossamon said he decided to send the letter to Stag Arms after learning that another firearms manufacturer, PTR Firearms, had accepted an invitation to move to Horry, S.C., and relocate its 150 some employees, who average about $20 an hour.

Gary Schraut, chairman of the Aviation Authority, said Hernando County and Florida would reap huge economic benefits from firearms manufacturers relocating here.

"These are great companies, providing great jobs and providing a great service to the community," Schraut said.

Schraut said he understands the reticence by some about attracting such companies, which have been blamed for mass shootings and other violent acts in the United States.

But Schraut said these companies serve a needed purpose by supplying weapons to law enforcement officials, the military and to citizens adhering to their constitutional right to bear arms.

"This is more of a legal business than the sale of marijuana in Colorado, and yet some people support that," Schraut said.

He believes the airport industrial park has a good shot at landing the company.

"We have companies on the airport that already make parts for firearms so what a perfect fit," he said.

(352) 544-5290

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