Ammo maker provides bang to Lumberton economy

LUMBERTON — U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, who said he likes to hunt and shoot guns, didn’t get to fire a gun as he toured Cape Fear Arsenal in Lumberton.

Hudson did, however, have the opportunity to get a close up view of an upstart business that he said shows that manufacturing can once again become the engine driving the economy of Robeson and surrounding counties.

Hudson, whose 8th District includes almost all of Robeson County, toured the arsenal on Monday. During his visit, he discussed manufacturing and its importance to the growth of local economies.

“I’m excited about the potential for this business to succeed and grow in Robeson County,” Hudson said. “I think the market is right at this time for this product.”

Located in a 72,000-square-foot building on Starlite Drive, the new business produces ammunition components and high quality projectiles. The company is still waiting for necessary equipment to become fully operational. Currently, only .45-caliber projectiles are being produced. By March, ammunition will be able to be added to the projectiles, and by August company officials hope to have the most modern technology available to produce casings.

When operating at full capacity, 175 million rounds of ammunition will be produced each year, according to Steve Weliver, the company’s chief branding officer. Within five years, the company, which now employs four full-time people, will employ more than 200 workers, Weliver told Hudson and about a dozen county and Lumberton officials.

Weliver said the company will start with producing projectiles and casings for pistols at the Lumberton facility. A rifle line won’t be added until the third year of the company’s operation.

Weliver said that it has taken about four years of planning to start the business, one which he said almost went to South Carolina.

“But so far this has been a good location for us and things are going great,” Weliver said. “The opportunity is here. We couldn’t ask for more.”

Weliver said that there is a current demand for the type of ammunition components and projectiles that his company will produce. The demand, he said, isn’t currently being met by those manufacturing similar products.

“The market is growing,” Weliver said. “There have been 57 million new gun owners over the past seven years. There are about 10 million guns sold each year.

Weliver said that there will be no shortage of individuals in Robeson and surrounding counties from which he will be able to select workers to fill available jobs.

“Since we announced in April that we will be doing business in Robeson County, we’ve already received at least 500 resumes from people seeking jobs. But we are not at the point where we are ready to hire. We still don’t have all of our equipment on the floor.”

Hudson said that more businesses like Cape Fear Arsenal would be successful if the federal tax code was changed to make American companies more competitive.

“We have to come up with new regulations for businesses that make sense,” he said. “There is no reason we can’t bring manufacturing back.”

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