The Cowboy State has marketed itself as Second Amendment-friendly. It seems to be working as Kel-Tec Firearms has announced it will be expanding its business to Rock Springs.
According to Kayla McDonald, economic development specialist for the Sweetwater Economic Development Coalition (SEDC), the firearms manufacturer hopes to be operational this fall. Kel-Tec will eventually bring upwards of 250 jobs to Rock Springs and Sweetwater County.
Kel-Tec Firearms is a Florida-based company founded in 1991 by George Kellgren. The company made national news earlier this year when it donated 400 rifles at a value of $200,000 to aid the Ukrainian resistance against Russia’s invasion.
“We’re very proud of this announcement. We think this is going to spearhead a lot more growth in the manufacturing sector,” said McDonald. “Hopefully there’s some other industries that are looking, maybe even the ammunition or firearms manufacturing, that are looking to get into some of those more gun-friendly states or business-friendly states.”
Finding The Right Fit
According to McDonald, Kel-Tec has purchased a 33,000-square-foot facility in Rock Springs on Blairtown Road. This will house the expansion. The building, erected in 2005, is one of many oil and gas buildings in Sweetwater County which the SEDC has worked over the years to market for economic development.
McDonald told the Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday the first hint of Kel-Tec potentially expanding to Rock Springs came from a request for information from the Wyoming Business Council. Project Cyclone, as it was called, revealed few details as to the business and focused only on the specifics of the project.
“We, about a week-and-half after submitting that project proposal, heard back from the business council, had a preliminary visit with the team at Kel-Tec via Zoom,” said McDonald. “They made the decision that they wanted to come out and look at properties and just do a site visit.”
When Kel-Tec executives visited Rock Springs in March, the SEDC showed them three potential locations in Sweetwater County before the company settled on the facility at Blairtown Road.
“We proposed that building to them. There are quite a few properties in Sweetwater County that are turnkey ready. Some have work to be done on them. This one didn’t really have a lot of changing the footprint from the existing oil and gas to what they’re going to need for the manufacturing side of things,” said McDonald. “At this point, it made sense to them.”
Behind The Scenes
It took about five months for Kel-Tec to select Rock Springs, starting when the SEDC responded to a request for information from the Wyoming Business Council.
According to McDonald, the SEDC has been working since 2016 to market Sweetwater County and had wanted to be considered for the Natrium project which ultimately went to Kemmerer.
“It’s our first big success as an organization in helping recruit in a company into southwest Wyoming, particularly Sweetwater County,” said McDonald. “We’ve been very proactive in trying to find ways to grow our economy and diversify and (have) done several different studies along the lines of how we can bring in new and emerging industries to fill some of these skill gaps that we have here.”
The Wyoming Business Council first met Kel-Tec several years ago at the Shot Show, an outdoor and shooting sports show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“I think that’s an important component of recruiting is that it usually doesn’t work where somebody calls us up and then they just show up and make everything happen,” said Dorrell. “It does take a number of years in some cases.”
What’s also important, said Dorrel, is the ability of a local economic group to be able to work to take the hand-off from the Wyoming Business Council and make it a success for themselves.
“I think what Sweetwater County and the economic development group did is really what we want to happen,” said Dorell. “They had the asset that was important to Kel-Tec. They had the people power and the ability to show them around, to help them with all of their questions and really do a good job of landing that lead.”
Economics And Education
According to McDonald, Kel-Tec will be working closely with Western Wyoming Community College once the company has established its presence and is in search of a workforce.
“The community college is working on several new programs in their manufacturing and industrial technology department, and one of those pieces is a CNC-type certification program,” said McDonald. “They actually have the exact model of a CNC machine that Kel-Tec is planning on placing in the facility in Rock Springs.”
CNC, or computer numerically controlled, machining is a high-precision manufacturing technique machinists in the industrial and manufacturing industry, according to Industry Today. The process involves the subtraction of material from a specific piece to achieve the desired end-product.
“It’s going to be a great training mechanism for the workforce that we can hopefully supply them with and get them to continue to get to that growth number they want to hit,” said McDonald.
Kel-Tec is proposing to start out small, with around 20 to 30 jobs for the initial project. From there, it is hoping to employ upwards of 250 people in Rock Springs.
Dorrell said economic diversification is important, but it needs to makes sense.
“That diversification, when things are so disparate that they don’t make any sense together it’s actually difficult,” said Dorrell. “But, when you’re diversifying by making a pivot from an existing workforce or from existing companies that are in your area, that’s where the strength from diversification comes because then you build in the resilience.”
Representative Jerry Paxton (R – Encampment), whose district extends to the portion of Rock Springs where Kel-Tec will set up shop, said getting a company which fits the narrative of Wyoming to expand into the Cowboy State was a “win-win situation for all of us.”
Governor Mark Gordon also welcomed the news.
“In Wyoming, we value our open spaces, recreation and hunting and proudly defend our 2nd Amendment rights,” he said.
Republican Senator John Kolb from Rock Springs also praised Kel-Tec’s decision to expand into Wyoming. Along with the benefits the move would bring to his constituents in the form of job opportunities, he said he would welcome any firearm company to Wyoming.
“Any company that’s involved with the firearm industry, certainly I’ll welcome them with open arms. We’re a safe-haven for companies that produce firearms in the United States. I think we need to get the word out,” said Kolb. “California may be anti-second amendment. Wyoming isn’t and we’re open for business.”
McDonald looks forward to Kel-Tec’s arrival in Rock Springs and Sweetwater County and believes it will lead to great things for the communities she works with.
“I think Sweetwater County is going to see a lot of community involvement from this company, which is huge,” said McDonald. “People know that our community is very supportive of one another. We rally together when times are tough, and I think this company is going to show they are also here not just as an employer but as a friend within the community.”
Cowboy State Daily reached out to Rock Springs mayor Timothy Kaumo and Matt Stanek of Kel-Tec Firearms Thursday morning for comment but did not receive a response.