Alan Clemmons knew he had to act when he saw pictures of Texas Gov. Rick Perry arm-in-arm with a Connecticut gun company owner just a few weeks ago.
Clemmons, a state representative in South Carolina whose district includes Myrtle Beach, is a friend of Perry’s and supported his presidential run last year. But Texas and South Carolina are fierce rivals for the hand of the jilted firearms makers, so Clemmons booked a trip to Connecticut to make his case personally.
On Friday, Clemmons met with executives at five companies, including Mark Malkowski, the owner of Stag Arms in Nee Britain, who appeared in that photo with Perry at the NRA convention; and Josh Fiorini, president of PTR Industries in Bristol, who has already said his firm is exiting Connecticut, and visited Clemmons’ district recently.
Tony Terzi, My colleague from Fox CT, traveled with Clemmons and found a colorful guy with plenty to say about his state — and ours.
“The nation has heard from your gun manufacturers and we saw the opportunity, we know what we have in South Carolina,” Clemmons told Terzi. “We know it to be a great place to do business and we know how we feel about the Second Amendment.”
We have a tax-free week for clothing; they have a tax-free weekend for guns. Enough said about that.
“I’m here today to offer a lifeline,” Clemmons said. “Your gun manufacturing businesses are looking for an exit strategy from Connecticut.”
Not necessarily. Among the four firms that make military-style rifles banned for sale in their home state, the officials at the Colt Companies, the largest, have not said they’re looking to move. O.F. Mossberg in New Haven may look to expand elsewhere but has only said it always looks at options. Malkowski has said, and reiterated to me Friday, that he remains undecided but is actively listening to offers; and PTR is leaving.
The bald, goateed, jocular Clemmons is confident about his chances of prevailing. One company — presumably PTR, but he didn’t say — asked its employees to choose among three locations, he told Terzi. “myrtle Beach won hands-down,” he said.
For south Carolina, the offer is not just money. Taxes are lower, but, like Texas, it’s a “right to work” state, meaning union organizing is nearly impossible. And Clemmons said, “We can train your employees on your schedule and not at your cost.”
Boeing and BMW are among the global manufacturers that have relocated to the Palmetto State in recent years.
Clemmons’ section of the state is not Shangri-la. It has high unemployment in the counties around Myrtle Beach, he said, because they were hard hit by the recession and abandoned by the old textile industry.
Aside from meeting with gunmakers and suppliers, Clemmons added, “I feel like I’m here for another reason and that is to extend South Carolina’s condolences for the tragedy that happened in Newtown.”
He added that Connecticut foisted more tragedy with the gun control law adopted by lawmakers and signed on April 4 by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
“I’ve always respected Connecticut, the Constitution State,” Clemmons said.
Malloy Spokesman Andrew Doba was unapologetic, restating a comment to Terzi that he has made often since the law took effect, banning the sale of military-style rifles and magazines that carry more than 10 rounds.
“The Governor thinks about job creation 24 hours a day. However, on this particular issue, we’ve made a decision that public safety needs to be our top priority.”