An industrial development veteran, Rick McCaskill will quickly tell you recruiting a major industry takes time, even years.
As executive director of the Development Authority of Bainbridge-Decatur County, McCaskill said, “Big industry deals take a long time, and nothing is final until the official announcement is made.”
After working for years to recruit a firearms manufacturer, McCaskill was able to breathe a sigh of relief when Taurus Holdings, Inc. (Taurus USA) officially announced plans to establish a manufacturing facility in Bainbridge, creating more than 300 new jobs with a combined investment of more than $22.5 million in infrastructure and operations.
Laying the groundwork started more than 15 years ago when McCaskill began attending the national SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) show. The annual trade shows bring together commercial buyers and sellers of military, law enforcement, and tactical products.
“Every gun manufacturer, supplier, and company associated with shooting and hunting attend the SHOT shows,” McCaskill said. “The state has been trying for years to recruit the firearm industry, and I had the chance to be a part of pitching Georgia. We were all out there talking about Georgia, not just a particular area.”
McCaskill said the SHOT shows gave him an insight into the firearms industry; however, it was an act of nature that brought Taurus USA officials to Bainbridge.
“It was a hurricane that brought them here,” McCaskill said. “Some of the Taurus executives had come here from Miami to get out of the path of a hurricane and were staying at Southwind Plantation. I knew they were looking to relocate, so I offered to show them a new spec building at our industrial park.”
Though the spec building wasn’t the right fit, McCaskill was able to pique their interest with the availability of land.
“Prospects don’t come to look at land; they come to look at buildings,” he said. “If they want to see land then they start looking near the interstate.”
After getting their attention, McCaskill said the real work started.
“Recruiting a new industry is a very competitive process,” he said. “We had our act together and offered them a good package.”
McCaskill said it was a team effort. “Everyone had a part, from the city, county, and schools, and we were all singing from the same songbook and in one voice. That’s how we made the deal. The community made this happen.”
Taurus USA, a leading firearms manufacturer, began construction in September on its 200,000-square-foot facility, which includes 180,000 square feet of space for manufacturing and 25,000 square feet for administrative space and national headquarter.
“The decision to relocate stems from our desire to expand our facility, keeping all operations in one location,” said David Blenker, president and CEO of Taurus USA. “All involved have welcomed Taurus, from the Governor’s office to the Bainbridge Chamber of Commerce. We look forward to establishing a solid workforce and giving back to a great community.”
According to Taurus USA, the company has extensive plans to expand its U.S. engineering and production in the next several years. Through 2025, the company intends to invest a substantial amount of capital and resources in the Bainbridge area, providing a positive economic impact as it employs skilled labor, administrative personnel, customer service representatives, and management teams in the new facility.
“Taurus will hire workers from across the region,” McCaskill said. “We are working with the public schools and colleges to ensure we have a ready workforce now and in the future.”
McCaskill said Bainbridge High School is developing mechatronic classes through the state’s Career, Technical, Agricultural Education (CTAE) program. Also, Southern Regional Technical College (SRTC) will provide essential resources toward meeting Taurus USA’s workforce needs.
“We were included in the preliminary meetings and were in a position to provide assurances to the Taurus management team that the concerns they had about workforce development and specific training activities could be positively addressed by SRTC,” said Dennis Lee, vice president of economic development for SRTC. “It is a privilege for the Economic Development division of SRTC to be trusted with a vital role to assist the Taurus team as they transition to Bainbridge.”
A Big Deal
For its efforts in recruiting Taurus USA, Bainbridge and Decatur County Development Authority was recognized by the Georgia Economic Developers Association (GEDA) for “outstanding achievement in the location/expansion of business in Georgia.”
According to GEDA, Bainbridge and Decatur County “combined some consistent marketing, a quirky bit of luck and some good old-fashioned, roll-up the sleeves elbow-grease to finalize this deal.”
The Taurus USA announcement shines the spotlight on the manufacturing industry not only in Bainbridge but across South Georgia.
“Taurus USA’s decision to locate to Bainbridge is not only a win for the community, but for the region,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) Commissioner Pat Wilson. “Georgia has a long history in the manufacturing industry sector, and we are excited to add Taurus to the long list of manufacturers that are based here. I am confident that our thriving pro-business environment and unmatched logistics network along with the abundance of resources available in Bainbridge including a skilled workforce will allow Taurus to succeed in Georgia.”
With the “build it and they will come” concept, McCaskill said he has received calls from other companies within the firearms industry wanting information on Bainbridge.
“Taurus is one of the largest companies in the firearms industry, and many of their suppliers will want to locate near their new facility,” McCaskill said. “Once the announcement was made, I started getting calls from suppliers in the firearms industry.”
Before the Taurus USA announcement, Decatur County was already experiencing a resurgence.
“Just about every manufacturer we have in the county has expanded in the past two years, and some two and three times,” McCaskill said. “Bainbridge has a lot of energy now, not just with industry growth, but there are exciting things happening in our downtown area including a brewery and new restaurants.”