BRUNSWICK, Maine — The LePage administration has invited two gun and ammunition companies to relocate to Maine in the weeks after governors in those states signed strong gun control legislation.
Working with Portland-based Maine & Co., which helps businesses locate in Maine, the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development contacted the companies “within the last couple of weeks,” LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said Saturday. “We haven’t heard back anything, as far as I know.”
Bennett declined to name the companies.
The news follows an opinion column Friday for the Wall Street Journal in which Gov. Paul LePage added his voice to others in the country wooing firearms manufacturers to their states after what LePage said was “hostile” and “hysterical” anti-gun legislation.
LePage said that he “is ready to provide incentives and guarantees” to companies such as Beretta USA Corp., Colt Manufacturing Co. and Magpul Industries and said “we would welcome and support the manufacturers of firearms and accessories.
“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,” LePage stated in the piece. “I’ll even throw in some lobster.”
At least one company, Magpul Industries, has already indicated that it will leave its home state of Colorado after Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper in March signed gun control legislation.
In a March 18 posting on its Facebook page, just prior to Hickenlooper signing the bill, Magpul Industries wrote that as a result of the legislation, “We will start our transition out of the state almost immediately, and we will prioritize moving magazine manufacturing operations first.
The post states that Magpul will likely become a multistate operation, and locations have not yet been chosen, although it notes, “We will begin talks with various state representatives in earnest if the governor indeed signs this legislation.”
John Butera, senior economic advisor for the LePage administration, said a “pro-business” atmosphere and a strong workforce are among Maine’s advantages touted by LePage in the discussions.
“We want to tell them we’re pro-business, and that we’re trying to put policies in place that are pro-business,” Butera said Saturday. The governor is emphasizing Maine’s workforce, he said, “from shipbuilding to farming to agriculture. That lends itself to manufacturing side of the equation.”
Bennett said Saturday that Pine Tree Zone are among the incentives the state would offer.
But Peter DelGreco, president of Maine & Co., said he advises companies to expand or relocate based on “strategic business sense,” because public policy can change as quickly as every two to six years with the administration.
Such a move is “a huge risk, anytime,” he said. “Public policy changes are a risk and after a couple of years there’s the potential for something different to happen. We always encourage companies looking to expand or relocate to make a decision on the basis of underlying strategic business sense, because public policy can be fickle, and you don’t know what’s going to happen, but that’s a level of uncertainty that’s already baked into any business decision — at least it should be.”
Bill Harwood, an attorney at the Verrill Dana law firm and a member of the board of directors for Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence, said his initial reaction to LePage’s opinion piece “was that the governor is doing one of the most important things he has to do, which is attract business and jobs to Maine. And good for him for doing that.”
But, Harwood continued, “The other part of my reaction is, I wish he would give as much time and energy to helping us reduce gun violence in Maine … both need his serious attention.”
Harwood said he has “no problem” with gun manufacturers relocating to Maine.
“We are not opposed to responsible companies manufacturing guns,” he said. “They are part of society. [But] we want safe guns, guns not designed for battlefields … and we want strict background checks to make sure people with violent criminal pasts cannot get guns because they are prohibited by law from possessing them.”