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Jax Daily Record Friday, Dec. 2, 201112:00 PM EST

Scott hopes Colt has silver bullet for economy

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by: David Royse

Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday that Colt Manufacturing, the maker of the famous Colt .45, the M16 and other guns, will open a new regional headquarters and manufacturing facility in Osceola County.

The facility over the next three years will create 63 jobs paying an average of more than $45,000. Scott and Colt Manufacturing President M. William Keys made the announcement near Kissimmee.

The company will be making something new, though officials are keeping quiet so far on what it is. Colt spokesman Carlton Chen said the company hasn’t announced yet what it will make at the facility, but it won’t be “any of the existing products” it makes currently at its Connecticut plant. Colt’s Canadian unit also has a factory in Ontario.

“As a supporter of new job creation and the Second Amendment, this announcement sends the clear message that Florida is both open for business and a defender of our right to bear arms,” Scott said.

“My primary responsibility as governor is to be our state’s chief advocate for job creation. My personal involvement in bringing Colt to Florida demonstrates my administration’s deep commitment to rebuilding our economy,” he said.

Having a big defense company like Colt — it supplies the Army’s primary rifle and small arms to a number of military customers around the world — put a facility in central Florida helps mitigate some recent defense losses for the region.

Northrop Grumman earlier this year eliminated 150 jobs at its Apopka laser system facility, citing anticipated federal budget cuts. In the summer, longtime munitions maker DSE Fuzing LLC laid off more than 100 workers and shut down its Orlando grenade fuse factory and warehouse, consolidating work at a new South Carolina facility.

Colt, based in West Hartford, Conn., will lease the facility near Kissimmee, which is currently a vacant building owned by Osceola County.

The state offered the gun maker $250,000 in incentives and Osceola County will renovate the building and give the company a break on rent. Osceola County has an unemployment rate of 11.3 percent, higher than the state rate as a whole.

Keys said the 175-year-old company looked at several possible sites for its expansion.

“Florida offered a strong pro-business incentive package,” he said. “Coupled with the low cost of doing business in Florida and a favorable regulatory environment, opening this new facility was very attractive to us.  Gov. Scott’s personal commitment to both Colt’s growth plan and America’s right to bear arms was instrumental in our decision.”

Valencia College will design a training program for workers at the company.

The company is heavily dependent on the U.S. government, for which it provides military arms. Financial documents on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission show that about a third of its net sales are to the U.S. government.

The company is the only maker of the U.S. Army’s standard issue rifle, the M4 carbine.

While Scott went to Osceola County on Thursday to trumpet the Colt announcement, it followed a much quieter announcement last week that will mean more jobs for Central Florida at a higher average wage.

Last week, restaurant chain Buca di Beppo said it is moving its headquarters from Minnesota to Orlando, where its parent company, Planet Hollywood, is based.

While the company says it will bring its 45 corporate employees from Minneapolis-St. Paul, an Enterprise Florida document reported on by Minneapolis financial news service Finance and Commerce said that 90 jobs with wages in the $64,000 range would be created by the Buca move, known to the state’s economic development officials as “Project Brightstar.”

Finance and Commerce reported that Planet Hollywood would receive about $800,000 in sweeteners for the project.

The Orlando City Council is slated to take up the project Monday.

The Enterprise Florida document said that the economic development group would seek $288,000 from the state’s Quick Action Closing Fund and that the city of Orlando would chip in $72,000. Another $84,000 would be available for worker training.

While it doesn’t say where the rest of the money would come from, the Enterprise Florida document confirms that the total amount available for Project Brightstar would be $804,000.

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