Like many Arkansans, I grew up an avid hunter. I've spent countless hours on deer stands and in duck blinds taking part in Arkansas' great pastime. But one of the biggest thrills I've had as a hunter came on opening day of duck season last year when I was proud to take my 12-year-old grandson, Malcolm, on his first big duck hunt. We hunted on the Cache River and had a great time.
Hunting is an Arkansas tradition spanning multiple generations. For every 1,000 residents in Arkansas, there are 42 registered firearms in the state. Our heritage and commitment to preserving the Second Amendment has made our state famous for its business-friendly environment for firearms and ammunition manufacturers.
In 2016, our state was recognized by Forbes Magazine as the third most gun-friendly state--a distinction which we are proud to have.
Every year since becoming governor, I have attended the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas, which is where manufacturers showcase new weaponry and ammunition products and technology. As you are reading this, I am attending this event once again to meet with industry executives, tell the Arkansas story, and invite them to do business in our state.
Our state's story is one of great success of expanding the firearms and ammunition industry here.
Last January, Gamo Outdoor and Daisy announced the consolidation of manufacturing operations at an expanded facility in Rogers. It's an $8.1 million investment that resulted in 88 new jobs. Daisy has been in Arkansas since 1958 and makes the popular Daisy air gun, which comes in high-end models for adults and recreational guns for youth.
In March 2017, Sig Sauer opened its 75,000-square-foot facility in Jacksonville that employs more than 100 people, which is almost twice as many jobs for which it originally planned. I began talking with Sig Sauer about locating in Arkansas on my first day in office, and it is quite gratifying to see them in full operation and succeeding.
Additionally, Arkansas is also attracting a number of businesses that are part of the firearms and ammunition supply chain. For instance, Micro Plastics, which is headquartered in Flippin, opened a new facility in Melbourne in 2016 to, in part, make plastic components for Sig Sauer firearms. To have a supplier just two hours away helps improve productivity and reduce product transportation costs.
In all, more than 6,000 Arkansans are employed within this industry, collectively earning more than $281 million in wages in 2017, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
As I'm sure most of you know, my administration emphasizes greater access to computer science training beginning as early as middle school. Like most manufacturers in the 21st century, those in the firearms and ammunition industry utilize automated technology that is essential in making precise weaponry. Our two-year colleges are stepping up and developing necessary programs to have our work force prepared to succeed in advanced manufacturing.
The firearms and ammunition industry is definitely hitting the bull's-eye when it comes to doing business in Arkansas. It's an industry that we enthusiastically embrace and welcome to the state, and one that we will continue to focus on from an economic development standpoint, which is why the SHOT Show is such an important event for me to attend.
Hunting is an important part of life in Arkansas. My hope is that one day, Malcolm will experience the same joy his Papaw did--one that comes from passing down important traditions to his children and grandchildren, like hunting, that strengthen the family bond.
Asa Hutchinson is governor of the state of Arkansas.
Editorial on 01/25/2018