April 14, 2013

LePage courts gunmakers to come to Maine

Maine has already contacted two gun companies that have spoken of leaving their states.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage's administration is actively courting gunmakers and ammunition manufacturers to relocate to Maine, focusing on companies that have threatened to leave states that have passed new gun control measures.

click image to enlarge

Gov. Paul LePage, in an op-ed column for the Wall Street Journal published Saturday, touted Maine as a state that is "fiercely protective" of its gun rights.

The Associated Press


PORTLAND - Maine activists have joined demonstrations across the country to call for legislation to prevent gun violence.

Portland area community leaders gathered Saturday for a demonstration to call for congressional action to support measures such as the new bipartisan proposal to require background checks for commercial gun sales. WCSH-TV said they read the names of 33 gun-violence victims, including several Mainers, representing the 33 people killed in the U.S. each day in gun-related homicides

"We Have Not Forgotten and Demand Action" events were scheduled in more than a dozen states.

They are being held as Congress deliberates gun violence following the Dec. 14 massacre in Connecticut.

Opponents of expanded background checks say the legislation wouldn't do much because criminals would simply go around the system and obtain their guns illegally.

- The Associated Press

In an op-ed column for the Wall Street Journal published Saturday, LePage touted Maine as a state that is "fiercely protective" of its gun rights and a welcoming potential home for gun manufacturers.

"I will never sign anti-gun legislation that erodes the rights of Maine citizens, drives your business away or infringes on the U.S. Constitution or the State of Maine Constitution," he wrote in the piece.

LePage's economic adviser, John Butera, said Saturday that Portland-based Maine and Company, a private company the state works with on business attraction, has reached out to two gun manufacturers recently on the state's behalf. George Gervais, commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, is on Maine and Company's board.

LePage said if companies such as Colt's Manufacturing, Beretta USA Corp. and Magpul Industries come to Maine, he'll look to "provide incentives and guarantees that will make it attractive for you to set up shop in our state."

Those three companies have all threatened to leave Connecticut, Maryland and Colorado, respectively, after those states' legislatures passed tough gun-control measures.

Butera said the state has contacted two gun companies that have publicly mulled moving, but he wouldn't say which ones because the relocation process is sensitive.

Peter DelGreco, Maine and Company's president and CEO, wouldn't confirm talks with companies, but said that generally, if a company has indicated there's something wrong with policy in another state, Maine and Company will engage the business, feel out the problem and make a pitch for Maine.

Governors in Connecticut and Colorado -- two states that saw mass shootings in the latter half of 2012 -- have already signed off on gun-control laws, while Maryland's Senate has passed a bill that Gov. Martin O'Malley backed and is soon expected to sign.

In Colorado, Magpul, a company that makes gun accessories and magazines, told the Denver Post in late March that it will leave the state "almost immediately" after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed sweeping gun measures into law, including a provision prohibiting the sale of magazines holding more than 15 rounds.

In an email, LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett noted the recent plans to lay off 110 employees at a General Dynamics location in Saco. The company, which makes heavy machine guns for military use, cited troop drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan as the reason for the layoffs.

"Those (machine guns) are not things that the public would buy," Bennett wrote. "Inviting Colt and Beretta to Maine still makes sense, since they sell to consumers and that market is growing."

In his op-ed, LePage said the respective companies are facing "hostile -- and hysterical -- legislation from politicians who slap them in the face for providing their states with jobs, opportunity and revenue."

As for Maine's specific strengths for gun manufacturers, Bennett cited a good work force, plentiful business sites, access to air, sea and rail transport and a "pro-gun climate that would welcome and appreciate the companies."

"Maine people are used to making things," Butera said. "We seem to do fairly well with manufacturing base and advanced manufacturing base."

Butera said in negotiations with businesses, the state would push Pine Tree Development Zones -- a state program where certain businesses can apply to reduce state taxes for up to 10 years when they create new jobs in certain sectors or move those jobs to Maine.

(Continued on page 2)

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