Fiocchi of America, the U.S. subsidiary of Italian ammunition maker Fiocchi, plans to put a factory in Pulaski County, investing $15 million in an operation that will employ 85 people.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Commerce Secretary Mike Preston announced the plans during a news conference Wednesday at the state Capitol.
Fiocchi is buying the assets of the Grandeur Fasteners plant off 145th Street, Arkansas Business has confirmed. The company has 28 workers there now, and Fiocchi plans to raise employment to 85.
The plant makes ammunition components, but Fiocchi will reconfigure the plant to produce centerfire ammunition, according to Anthony Acitelli, president and CEO of Fiocchi of America.
“The governor and I did talk, and he asked me, ‘Why Arkansas?’ … We picked you because of the business environment, the acceptance of the firearms industry and, really, the people,” Acitelli said at the conference. “What I told the employees when we had at our all-hands meeting is, look, we can buy machines but we can’t buy the people. And we really need the skilled workforce, and we’re really acquiring you; we’re not acquiring machines. We could get machines and put them in Missouri and life would be good, but we want the people here.”
The project has qualified for more than $660,000 in state incentives. According to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, they are: five years of Create Rebate, an annual cash rebate based on the number of jobs added by a company, worth $579,186, and Tax Back, which provides sales tax refunds on building materials, taxable machinery and equipment associated with the project, worth $82,407.
The plant will be managed by a native Arkansan: Jared Smith, general manager at Fiocchi of America. Smith finished his MBA at an Italian school, but met the Fiocchi family about 10 years ago when he owned Desert Lake Shooting Club in Las Vegas. Smith sold the range in 2009 and went to work for Fiocchi in 2010. He now lives in Springfield, Missouri; Fiocchi’s plant is in nearby Ozark, Missouri.
Smith told Arkansas Business late Wednesday that the Arkansas plant is set to be online within seven months. The company is growing and ran out of real estate to accommodate its growth, he said.
“We saw an opportunity to grow our platform and we really looked out across the United States and said, ‘You know, where do we want to grow? What business environments make sense for our business? What communities can support the work that we do?’ And Little Rock was at the top of the list,” Smith said.
The company looked at sites in Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Georgia, he said.
But the Arkansas site was attractive not only for its skilled employees but because it uses a cold forming technology that is “relatively new to our industry” and results in “super high productivity,” he added.
Smith said that, while the state incentives aided Fiocchi’s decision to open the plant in Arkansas, they weren’t the main catalyst for the project.
“For us, it was the state of Arkansas, and the community really rolled out a red carpet for us. It was introducing us to key resources. It was picking up the phone and getting licensing. It's just been a really smooth civil process in a very short period of time, which is not common,” he said.
The governor has courted the gun industry since taking office, regularly attending the annual Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas and touting the state as "gun friendly." Fiocchi is the latest company that's set sights on Arkansas. Others include CZ-USA, Gamo Outdoor USA Inc., Umarex USA Inc. and Sig Sauer.
The Arkansas plant will be hiring machine operators and a small management team, Acitelli said. Smith said their average pay would be $16-$18 per hour and that hiring will begin this fall.
“These are good-paying jobs,” Hutchinson said. “It will make a difference in our community and, most importantly, I hope that this is a partnership that will lead to future growth down the road because … the firearms industry is important to our state.
“Arkansas has become a premier leader in the firearms industry, both in terms of manufacturing, in terms of our promotion and as consumers, so adding Fiocchi Group to this, to what we have here in Arkansas, is a wonderful, wonderful addition.”
Preston welcomed Fiocchi to the state and said Arkansas must continue to be proactive in recruiting and helping companies grow so more people can go back to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fiocchi is one of Italy's oldest ammunition manufacturers. Its headquarters and main production plant are in Via Santa Barbara in Lecco, Italy.
Founded in 1876, the company has more than 600 employees. It is a leading producer and seller of small-caliber ammunition. The company also makes ammunition for sports and leisure, and for the private and public security sectors.
In recent years, the company has been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to change its ammunition to a more environmentally-friendly and production-friendly lead-free mixture, Smith said.
The company opened Fiocchi of America 37 years ago in Springfield, Missouri, eventually shifting its operations to Ozark.
While the company has military contracts with various countries, the Ozark plant makes and distributes mostly for commercial and recreational use, Smith said.
The U.S. is both the leading market in the world and Fiocchi's main market, having generated more than half of its $211.7 million revenue in 2017, according to the company's website.
Fiocchi was recently acquired by the Charme Funds in partnership with the Fiocchi family, though the company said corporate and managerial continuity was maintained.
“This investment is a clear sign of Fiocchi’s commitment toward excellence and is a major step in further strengthening the Group’s international leadership position,” Fiocchi CEO Maurizio Negro said in a news release about the plans for the plant in Arkansas.