Weapons manufacturer looking to expand operations in Columbia

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Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 11:00 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A longtime weapons manufacturer is looking to expand its business after requesting a tax abatement from Richland County Council.

If approved, a manufacturing plant on Old Clemson Road could bring new jobs by 2024.

The first reading for this economic project turned into a contested debate when it was made known that a weapons manufacturer was seeking a fee in place of taxes, or tax cuts.

“I will vote no because I feel I am obligated to look out for the young people who have been killed by various automatic weapons. I’m obligated to look out for adults. I’m obligated to look out for the community,” said a councilwoman during last week’s meeting.

Councilman Don Weaver credits the exchange to a national gun debate that he said overshadowed the importance of last week’s reading.

“The majority of council did not think there was an issue. Unfortunately, the gun debate kind of crept into this and some of my colleagues on council felt like we shouldn’t be encouraging another gun manufacture in Richland County,” said Weaver to WIS.

Weaver confirmed the business in question is FN America, a longtime manufacturer in Northeast Columbia for three decades and counting. He said FN America sells most of its products to the military.

Per their website, FN America is a U.S. subsidiary of FN Herstal headquartered in Belgium. Its holding company owns Browning Arms Company and Winchester, among others.

In the company’s economic request, $16.5 million will go towards a warehouse expansion promising 100 manufacturing jobs in Columba. If the project is approved, FN America could break ground by fall of this year.

Weaver, who voted in favor of the project, said a tax cut is worth the value of FN America’s expansion which could bring more dollars to the county.

“They’ve been a good manufacture here for 30 years, a good member of the Northeast community, and we felt like we should reward them and encourage them to bring these additional hundred good paying jobs to Richland County,” concluded Weaver.

The first reading passed in a six to four vote with one council member abstaining. Two additional readings are needed to approve the tax cut.

Weaver said the second reading for this project could be as soon as next Tuesday, but agenda items are subject to change.

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