DENVER — If Magpul Industries executives were concerned only with reaping financial perks when they made the decision to leave Colorado, they could have done better than Wyoming.
That’s the reaction from a Magpul spokesman in response to liberal critics who have accused the firearms-accessories manufacturer of departing Colorado for reasons of pocketbook, not principle.
“The specific economic incentives Wyoming offers to relocating companies is at or below what other states can offer,” Magpul counsel Jon Anderson told the Colorado Observer. “However, Wyoming offers an excellent business environment for growing companies.”
Magpul has come under fire from the left since announcing Jan. 2 that the company intends to move its manufacturing facility to Cheyenne and its corporate office to Texas, making good on last year’s promise to leave Colorado as a result of Democratic gun-control bills signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
A Feb. 10 article on the liberal website ColoradoPols carried the headline: “Reminder: Magpul Played Everybody Like a Fiddle,” while the progressive Colorado Independent ran a Feb. 6 article with the headline, “Magpul is relocating because it landed long-sought financial deal.”
“Far from a hardship, [this] could be the most profitable ‘crisis’ in Magpul’s history!” said Colorado Pols in a Jan. 3 post.
Republicans described the reports as an effort by the left to discredit Magpul and rewrite the narrative of last year’s gun-control melee, which resulted in the historic recalls of two Democratic state senators and the resignation of a third.
“They [Democrats] passed a bill that drove hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars of revenue out of the state of Colorado,” said state Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray). “How do you defend that, other than to demonize the people who left by saying, ‘Good riddance, they should be gone?’”
“It’s what you do when you’re losing the argument,” Brophy said.
Magpul’s departure came as a huge public-relations blow to state Democrats, who have touted job creation as a top priority. Magpul employs about 200 people and supports another 400 supply-chain jobs, contributing an estimated $85 million to the Colorado economy.
At least two-dozen states expressed interest in luring Magpul, which chose Texas and Wyoming based on factors that included support for “individual liberties and personal responsibility,” said Magpul CEO Richard Fitzpatrick in a Jan. 2 statement.
At a recent committee hearing, state Rep. Mike Foote (D-Longmont) asked Republicans about “the fact that Magpul has accepted about $17 million in government subsidies from Wyoming in order to move there.”
Anderson countered in an email exchange with the Observer “the Wyoming incentives are not ‘subsidies.’”
“[T]hey are loans from Wyoming to the local economic development office Cheyenne LEADS,” said Anderson. “Cheyenne LEADS will use those state funds to build a 100,000+ sq. ft. facility.”
He added that, “LEADS is leasing the facility to Magpul and will repay those state funds. Magpul has an option after year five of the lease to purchase (the) facility for the full construction cost.”
It was no secret that Magpul was seeking to leave Erie prior to 2013 in search of a larger footprint for its rapidly expanding manufacturing operation. The company had decided by December 2012 to build a state-of-the-art facility in Broomfield, about 15 miles from Erie, but pivoted after the passage of Democratic gun-control bills in March.
Even as they accuse Magpul of jumping ship to the highest bidder, critics have asked whether Magpul actually plans to leave Colorado, pointing out that the company is advertising to hire designers at its Erie location.
Anderson reaffirmed that Magpul is still planning to relocate under the schedule released Jan. 2, adding that the company has been “clear that this move will not interrupt operations or supply chain, and this requires maintaining sufficient personnel to support its ongoing business operations.”
“Any suggestion that a company would be frozen in place during a transition has not run a business,” said Anderson.
He said that Magpul is “committed to maintaining a limited presence in Colorado for the time being.” The January press released estimated that figure at about eight percent, but Anderson said it was “not possible to define with specificity how many employees will be in Colorado since that number will be largely based on how quickly the new space will be available in Wyoming and Texas.”
Officials at Magpul, a plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the 2013 law limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds, have emphasized that the company will continue to support gun rights in Colorado.
“They made that commitment to not abandon law-abiding gun owners in Colorado and will honor that commitment,” said Anderson.