by Jim Antich, founder and managing member, ATAC, LLC
In the summer of 2009 I was encouraged by a family member and longtime highly respected resident of Payson, to bring my vision for a small arms ammunition manufacturing company to Payson. My initial code enforcement official was discouraging.
Disappointed, but not one to give up easily, I arranged a meeting with Mayor Evans. His support was phenomenal. Instead of rejection, I received the attitude of let’s get to work and figure out how we can accommodate your company, we want your business and we want your jobs.
Mayor Evans and the Town management quickly went to work, spending the next six months talking to experts nationwide and tediously researching the current fire and building codes, which ultimately revealed that we could indeed “do what we wanted to” in Payson.
Our original promise to Payson was two machines and seven jobs in a 2000-square-foot facility.
In March of 2012, Mayor Evans and the Town management on behalf of ATAC applied for, and received a $300,000 State of Arizona Rural Economic Development Grant intended for job growth and capital investment in rural Arizona industries, at the time it was the largest award for a grant of its type. This grant allowed ATAC to purchase additional manufacturing equipment, thus creating more jobs for Payson.
Currently ATAC employs 48 Arizonans and 29 sales people nationwide. Our annual capacity in our current 20,000-square-foot facility is in excess of 100 million rounds of finished ammunition, which is shipped daily to hundreds of retail stores and sporting goods distributors in 49 states.
A little over a year ago I asked Mayor Evans to meet with me; due to the sensitive and extremely confidential nature of our discussions, I requested that he sign a non-disclosure agreement. I shared with the mayor that we were reaching full capacity at our current facility and as a response to increasing consumer demand for our products we were going to need to find 80 to 100 acres of vacant land to build an additional facility on. The challenge was that Payson is basically land locked by government-owned land, I have been told by State Representative Brenda Barton that 97 percent of Gila County is owned by the government.
At that time we engaged dck Capital Solutions to research what financial and tax incentives may be available from other locations both in Arizona and nationwide. We received a lot of interest from communities in multiple states, Texas was offering the greatest incentive packages for firearms and ammunition companies to relocate there. We were very close to signing a deal in Texas when Mayor Evans introduced us to the Fox Farm property.
The first phase of our expansion plans will include a 100,000-square-foot modern campus, equipped with clean, lean and green manufacturing equipment. The expansion will add 150 sustainable manufacturing careers including research, engineering and training professionals.
Without Mayor Evans’ leadership this expansion would definitely be headed for Texas.
At a recent council meeting in Star Valley, Payson mayoral challenger Randy Roberson and council challenger Charlene Creach Brown spoke out against our expansion and thus against our proposed job creation, stating: “Payson has plenty of land already zoned industrial property, the Town doesn’t need to annex anymore.” Roberson said, “If there’s an interest in being that far removed (from Payson) there’s a reason.” Brown was quoted as having said she would “hate to see the PRIVATELY owned land developed.” She continued “turning it into an industrial park would be CRIMINAL.”
Mayor Evans and I have spent the last year looking for an appropriate site in Payson and the surrounding area and I can tell you that Roberson and Brown are wrong.
Wow, I guess “The Voice of Rim Country” i.e. Roberson, Lockhart and Brown’s idea of new economic development for Payson would be an additional title loan and check cashing business or possibly a new “medical” marijuana distribution business on Highway 87 instead of sustainable manufacturing careers ... go figure.
Payson, please vote for Mayor Evans, Ed Blair, Fred Carpenter and Su Connell; help us ensure our future remains in the Rim Country.
The employees of ATAC and their families want to graciously thank Mayor Evans. Without Mayor Evans’ endless compassion, his selfless dedication, his visionary leadership and his worldwide political relationships, ATAC would have gone the way of Ruger 27 years before and bypassed Payson.