Houston or Horry County: Connecticut gunmaker to decide next month where to build

08/30/2013 11:53 PM

08/30/2013 11:58 PM

The president of Stag Arms, a Connecticut gun manufacturer, said Friday he will decide by the end of September if he will locate an expansion of his business in Houston or Horry County.

“South Carolina is very competitive,” Mark Malkowski said of what the state has to offer his company versus that put forward by the Lone Star State. “At this point, we’re spending our time evaluating the offers.”

Stag Arms is the second Connecticut gun manufacturer the two states have fought over since Connecticut legislators passed more restrictive gun laws following the December massacre of 27 people in Newtown, Conn., including 20 students at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Like Stag, PTR Industries narrowed its choices to Texas and South Carolina before settling its move into a spec building at the Cool Springs Business Park in Aynor.

Josh Fiorini, PTR president, said Horry County’s East Coast location was the ultimate factor that determined his company’s move, and Horry County economic developers hope location may sway Stag Arms, as well.

Brad Lofton, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp., agreed that Horry County compares favorably in most areas with Texas, but hoped that Horry’s proximity to Stag’s Connecticut plant, quality of life and short distance to customers in Columbia and elsewhere in the Southeast could be the points that will sell Malkowski.

Malkowski said company officials are talking with equipment sales companies, evaluating how much space the company will need at its new location and studying the cost of doing business in Stag’s deliberations on its move. He said the expansion will not be in Connecticut.

Various outlets rank states by the ease of doing business.

CNBC had Texas first and South Carolina No. 32 in its 2012 list of top states for doing business. This year, Texas had dropped to second, behind South Dakota, and South Carolina jumped to No. 23.

South Carolina moved from 22nd in 2012 to eighth this year for cost of doing business in the two rankings and from 15th to ninth in workforce.

Area Development magazine’s 2012 ranking, its most recent, of states for doing business has Texas first and South Carolina second.

While the rankings can give business recruiters something to talk about with prospects, businesses clearly have other factors that weigh in a final decision. The World Bank’s ranking of countries on ease of doing business has the U.S. as No. 4 and China, No. 91.

The Myrtle Beach EDC has done comparisons of Horry County with other locations, including Houston, for things businesses look at when considering a move.

Houston comes out ahead in some categories – for instance, there is no state income tax in Texas. But Horry County ranks better in property taxes.

Lofton expressed cautious optimism about Horry’s chance to land Stag Arms.

“We have established a very strong group of partners who have provided resources to help us close this project,” he said.

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