Oldest Gun Manufacturer Leaves Blue Collar Town for Red State

Remington guns are displayed at the NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits on May 5, 2018, in Dallas.

“Can’t wipe history” – America’s oldest firearm manufacturer, Remington is closing its New York plant this month, and moving it to Georgia, after spending more than 200 years there.

“Ilion is Remington.” John Stephens, mayor of Ilion, New York said, “Remington is Ilion” in an interview with Zoom, ahead of the closure.

The mayor used this phrase to introduce himself in college and even during his tenure in office.

It doesn’t matter whether you manufacture firearms in this country or not. You can’t erase history. Stephens, a resident of Ilion for nearly his entire 57-year life, says that Ilion will forever be known as “the home of Remington’s arms”.

Old Remington factory – View of the Remington Arms Co., Inc. complex in Ilion, New York, Thursday, February 1, 2024. The oldest American gun manufacturer is consolidating its operations in Georgia and announced recently plans to close the Ilion plant in early March.

Ilion, a village of blue-collar workers in New York’s Mohawk Valley is located approximately 200 miles north-west of New York City. Eliphalet Remington founded Remington in the village in 1816.

Late last year, Remington officials informed union officials that RemArms, which is the current Remington Arms version, had decided to stop manufacturing in New York by March. The remaining Ilion operations will be moved to Georgia where, according to company leaders, the firearms industry has been welcomed and supported.

As generations of families have worked at the factory, even the street names in New York pay homage to it, like Remington Ave. or Armory St.

Stephens said, “We’re a blue-collar, so get your hands dirty. Roll up your sleeves, and put your elbows in the dirt, wherever [town] you are.” “I come from a large family, just like many people of my age.” You know great-grandparents, grandparents and parents…I knew there were employees who [were] fifth and sixth generations employees.”

He called the closure of New York not only a “historical loss” but also a “nostalgic one.

Stephens called Ilion a Second Amendment-friendly community, partly because of its long association with Remington but also due to the culture that promotes hunting, fishing, and gun safety.

“I was exposed to firearms at a very young age, whether it was with a shotgun, a rifle, or a pistol.” It may be almost ingrained into you that firearm safety, hunting, and fishing are a big part of life in this area,” he said. He argued that the local region was pro-firearms and firearm safety.

He said that the Remington plant employed thousands in the past, but only 1,500 people when Stephens became mayor. When business leaders announced that the plant would be moving out of New York, it employed about 300 people.

It’s been decreasing and decreasing, as far as employee numbers are concerned. You’re looking at 300 people who won’t be working at that factory. This means that 300 people are not going to be present in the village daily. They may walk out to grab a pizza, sub, or McDonald’s for lunch. Stephens suggested that they buy gas or fuel when in town.

The mayor stated that the financial impact of the closure of the 1.1-million-square-foot plant would be severe, but it wouldn’t be as bad if thousands of workers were still employed at the facility. He said that those who worked in the plant could find jobs at nearby distribution and manufacturing centers.

It’s going to be hard for a while. Local businesses will see a slight decline. But again, 300 versus 1,500. It’s easier to accept, but still not easy,” he said. He noted that Ilion revolved about people going into “the shop,” or as the locals refer to it, the Remington Plant.

After estimating that the closure of the plant will cost the village approximately $1 million per year, including taxes and utility payments, the mayor and other city leaders have now begun to work on a budget.

Signs outside Remington Factory – Street names reflecting the importance of Remington Arms Co. in the village of Ilion, New York on Thursday, February 1, 2024. The oldest gun manufacturer in the United States is consolidating its operations in Georgia and has recently announced plans to close down the Ilion plant.

This year we are going to be extremely strict. The budget is going to be tight. When we began our budgeting process, we estimated a tax hike of 30% to cover all the losses. “Through the hard work that I, the village board, and our village treasurer have done, we are looking at something between 2% and 3% in terms of a tax hike, and this is without cutting any village services,” said he.

The village leaders are looking into options to reconfigure this massive plant that sits in the middle of the town on 34 acres. The mayor hopes multiple businesses or one big company will move in.

Stephens, a Democrat governor, is inviting Kathy Hochul to meet with him and other town leaders to discuss finances. Kathy Hochul should meet him and the other leaders of the town to discuss finances.

“I want the governor to be aware. “I need our county elected officials, our state elected officials, and our federally elected officials to know we need financial help. Next year will be tough because it will be the first budget year without those revenues,” he said.

In recent years, financial troubles have plagued Remington. The company was sold in 1993 and then again in 2007. It filed for bankruptcy both in 2018 and 2020. In 2022, Remington paid $73 million as part of a settlement stemming from the Sandy Hook mass killing in 2012.

The restrictive gun laws in New York were blamed by some Republicans, including Rep. Elise Stefanik of the state and State Sen. Mark Walczyk.

In a late-last-year statement, the CEO of the company said that the company is “excited” to be moving to a state that embraces the Second Amendment.

Ken D’Arcy, CEO of RemArms, said in a press release “We are excited to be coming to Georgia. It is a state which not only welcomes businesses but also enthusiastically welcomes and supports companies in the firearms sector.” “Everyone who has been involved in this process has demonstrated how important business is for the state, and how welcoming the state is to all businesses, including the firearms industries.”

The Remington Arms Co. assembly hall on August 16, 1917.

Stephens noted that locals had a “nearly knee-jerk reaction” to blame New York politicians or laws, such as the New York Gun Industry Liability Law, for Remington’s move. However, Stephens also pointed out this was a commercial move by RemArms. Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the liability law in 2021. It allows gun manufacturers to be sued for “knowingly or recklessly creating, maintaining or contributing” to violence.

Do I believe that New York’s political environment is partly the cause? Yeah. Yes, I think so. But I believe that’s the… less important of the reasons. RemArms’ current owners made a decision based on business. Some of the reasons they gave were right on target, but others I disagree with. “The factory is probably not efficient for production today,” he said.

John Stephens: The financial impact of Remington’s departure will be “huge”

John Stephens, mayor of Ilion, N.Y. discusses Remington moving from the state to Georgia in ‘The Bottom Line’.

Stephens said in an interview that the closing of the “shop” marks the end of generations of families who have worked there.

“I don’t believe we have the next generation.” I don’t believe there were that many. “I think that you are looking at people who are probably in their late 30s or older, and are working in the factory right now,” said he.

Stephens, despite the financial challenges and the loss of the historic and sentimental plant to the town, said that the town was resilient and remained positive.

“We must remain positive, not only in Ilion but throughout the entire region. We must be confident that we will be able to attract businesses to use that facility. It could be one big business or a few dozen smaller ones that use the space. “That’s my goal. I am optimistic, and I work every day to achieve that.”