COLUMBIA — The cities of Hallsville and Centralia and their state legislator are pushing to attract gun manufacturers to Boone County.
Hallsville Mayor Cheri Reisch said she would "roll out the welcoming mat" to a gun manufacturer that was interested in moving to the county. She highlighted a specific 120-acre site that she said is "shovel ready."
Reisch is part of a growing chorus of mid-Missouri elected officials who are pitching the benefits of doing business in the state to gun companies interested in relocating from states that have passed new gun restrictions.
Hallsville has sent letters to manufacturers in states that Reisch said have become less desirable to gun companies.
"Because Colorado and Illinois, specifically, are not very gun friendly, they (the gun companies) think: 'Why should we do business in a state that is anti-our business?'" Reisch said.
The effort to attract a gun or ammunition manufacturer is still in the early stages, Reisch said, and it is too early to predict numbers of jobs or economic activity that could be created if the search succeeds.
"We are just putting it to them," she said. "We have a site, and we'd welcome you with open arms."
The city of Centralia also has sent letters to gun companies in an attempt to attract them. Centralia City Administrator Lynn Behrns said the city's economic development arm sent a letter signed by Mayor Tim Grenke to MagPul Industries this spring.
MagPul is a Colorado-based gun manufacturer that announced it was leaving the state after Colorado's legislature passed stricter gun regulations on high-capacity magazines.
After the new laws were approved in Colorado, Centralia sent its letter to MagPul, emphasizing the city's rail access, tax credits through enhanced enterprise zones and a labor force of experienced machinists.
In the spring, State Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, sent his own letters to 13 gun manufacturing companies in a broader attempt to entice them to relocate or open new facilities in Missouri. The letters highlighted Missouri's tradition of gun ownership, its central location and a growing manufacturing industry.
"If you value plain-spoken, no-nonsense leadership, I humbly ask that you consider moving your firearms business to the Show Me state," the April letter read.
On Friday, Rowden said that while he has not spoken with any specific companies since sending his letters, he plans to follow up with another round of communication. He said it was the public nature of many of the companies' departures that prompted him to reach out and present to them the advantages of Missouri.
"Some of these companies are still looking for places to relocate," Rowden said. "I think we still have a couple of opportunities left."
Regional Economic Development Inc. President Mike Brooks said Friday that his organization also has reached out to gun and ammunition companies but with no response.
As many states impose stronger gun control rules, the Missouri legislature has tried to relax gun laws. It passed three gun measures this session that would, among other things, block enforcement of new federal restrictions in Missouri, reduce the age for concealed gun permits to 19 and bar the Missouri Department of Revenue from keeping copies of documents needed for the permits.
All three bills await Gov. Jay Nixon's signature or veto. He also could allow the laws to take effect with no action.
Rowden thinks the legislature and the governor alike would support more gun-related business in Missouri.
"All of us would welcome their industry and the jobs and the economic stability," Rowden said.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.