A nearly completed firearms distribution center now looms along North Route Z in east Columbia across the highway from Glenn Acres Farm and just north of the RV dealer Camping World of Mid-Missouri.
The sprawling 632,000-square-foot building sits on the edge of a 210-acre plot owned by American Outdoor Brands Corp., which manufactures firearms and outdoor recreational equipment. It’s the size of three Walmart Supercenters.
Lewis Hornsby,president of American Outdoor Brands’ new Logistics and Customer Service Division, walked through the extensive, sunlit halls of the airy edifice on a recent Friday, describing the board rooms, conference rooms, offices and cubicle farms that will soon inhabit the space. He said this in-the-works center is unlike any other owned by the corporation; every piece of merchandise the company manufactures or handles across the country will be distributed through it.
Hornsby said the facility will feature a state-of-the-art workout space and a cafeteria that will hold hundreds for lunch. He pointed out the water feature along the western fringe of the property. It’s now an isolated pond but soon will include a pergola, patio and pier.
“It kind of speaks to what we do,” Hornsby said of the added element, which embodies the corporation’s passion for outdoor activities and adventures.
An update on the center’s progress came Aug. 31 when American Outdoor Brands CEO and President James Debney spoke to analysts on a conference call about the corporation’s first-quarter earnings of fiscal year 2019. Its first quarter of the new fiscal year ended July 31.
“At this stage, the building is essentially complete, the installation of the material-handling equipment is well underway, and we are on pace to start transitioning our firearms business in Q3 of this fiscal year,” Debney said.
Debney said benefits of the facility, which he called a “strategic initiative that will ultimately allow us to lower our costs and better serve our customers,” include efficiency in the logistics and supply chain, minimized freight expenses of offshore arrivals and better management of finished goods inventories, with business will be conducted in one central location.
The corporation, formerly Smith and Wesson Holding Corp., has housed its Outdoor Products and Accessories Division in a building on Lemone Industrial Boulevard, where about 175 people work, said Liz Sharp, vice president of investor relations. It has occupied the building since 2014 when it acquired Battenfeld Technologies, Sharp said.
Between March and May of next year, that facility will shut down after consolidating with the new Columbia center, which is scheduled to open in December.
Sharp confirmed American Outdoor Brands will create 154 jobs in the new center’s first three years and 328 long term, which was announced by the company in March 2017. Sharp also confirmed the average annual wage for the new positions will be $46,786 with an average hourly wage of $22.50.
The average annual salary in 2017 in Boone County was $36,225, according to previous Missourian reporting.
The corporation is advertising 24 vacant positions in Columbia on its website, including positions in graphic design, digital marketing, security and product engineering.
The new logistics facility will cost the corporation a total of $75 million said Jeffrey Buchanan, executive vice president, chief financial officer and chief administrative officer.
“We are investing substantial resources into this new facility, and its systems are an evolutionary step toward speeding up our integration of future acquisitions and achieving our long-term strategy to better serve our wholesalers, retailers and customers,” Debney said.
Boone County’s taxing entities in the spring of 2017 approved Chapter 100 tax incentives for American Outdoor Brands, which will effectively receive a 50 percent tax break for both real and personal property over a 10 year span. The company’s tax bill will be waived, but it will make grant payments equal to 50 percent of what it would normally pay in property taxes.
The five affected taxing entities — Columbia Public Schools, Boone County, Boone County Fire Protection District, the Columbia Public Library and Boone County Family Resources — will receive a combined $2.77 million over the 10 year life of the bonds, according to REDI estimates and previous Missourian reporting.
A portion of Route Z in Boone County reopened Sept. 1 after Emery Sapp and Sons improved the highway to accommodate the facility, which is onRoute Z and near East St. Charles Road. Changes included lane expansions to an off-ramp from Interstate 70 to Route Z, the creation of Enterprise Drive, which runs along the southern property boundary, and the construction of several turn lanes, said Chief Engineer Jeff McCann of Boone County Resource Management. A section of Route Z also had to be lowered for better visibility.
“It’s pretty simple construction, really,” McCann said. “It came along really nice.”
The road projects are about 85 percent complete, McCann said. Tasks remaining include building a retaining wall, adding signs, striping pavement, grading and seeding.
Emery Sapp and Sons’ contract for the work was $1.34 million, and the project was entirely funded by a state-issued Community Development block grant, McCann said. The county administered the grant and the Missouri Department of Transportation approved all the plans, he said.
Hornsby said spaces like this one are typically designed to house a company for at least five to seven years, and this center is no anomaly. The logistics facility has been designed with an expectation of long-term growth, and, with the potential for a 600,000-square-foot expansion, will sustain American Outdoor Brands for many years to come.
“We definitely expect to continue to grow,” Hornsby said. “Now we’ll have the space.”